Belfast Telegraph

Steve Thornton is braced for fiery rematch

By Stuart McKinley

Steve Thornton is preparing his Belfast Giants team to face even more rough stuff from the Edinburgh Capitals tonight.

Last Sunday's clash in Scotland was shrouded in controversy after Giants defenceman Kevin Phillips was forced out of the game after only 64 seconds following what Thornton described as a 'vicious hit' to the head.

And when the Giants asked for the game tape to be reviewed by the Elite League's disciplinary chiefs it was discovered that the Capitals had failed to record the entire first period – despite there being a webcast of the game – meaning that no action could be taken against the player responsible.

Phillips' participation in tonight's game remains uncertain, but what isn't in doubt is Thornton's expectations ahead of the physical encounter tonight.

"I think Edinburgh will come in exactly the same as they did last Sunday," said Thornton.

"It was their home opener and they were always going to come out hard and they knew we were short-rostered too.

"Sometimes teams can play differently on the road and come to close up. We will have to see how things go, but I think it will be the same again and they will come at us hard.

"Our players will have to be ready for it, but they can stand up to it."

If the Capitals think they can rough it up though, the Giants have the perfect man to put a stop to it in captain Adam Keefe, who won't be afraid to drop the gloves if he has to.

For Thornton, tonight's game at the Odyssey is something of a homecoming.

It is over four years since his last home competitive game as Giants coach and he is relishing experiencing the atmosphere created by the Belfast crowd once again.

"I am really excited about our first home game and the fans in Belfast have always been amazing," he said.

"The Odyssey Trust has worked hard to make the arena into the home of the Giants and one of the big things that guys come back here for is the arena.

"They love playing here, we have practiced at the Odyssey all week and they will all be looking forward to getting out in front of a loud crowd for the game."

Those home fans will have to wait a while longer to get a look at forward Mark McCutcheon in competitive action.

He hasn't played since the pre-season game at home to the Cardiff Devils a fortnight ago and will miss the two weekend games, with a home Challenge Cup clash against the Braehead Clan following tomorrow night.

Cody Brookwell is another injury doubt, but being hit with player absences won't force Thornton into filling his last remaining import slot in a panic.

Instead he will continue to keep a close watch on the current market, as well as considering just what kind of player is needed to complete his jigsaw.

"My eyes and ears are wide open and I am still making contact with people," said Thornton.

"I need to see how serious the injuries that we have are and see what is needed as far as the league is concerned and exactly the type of guy that we need.

"The way things are right now, if I have everyone available I have 10 solid forwards who can give me a headache regarding who to play and six good defencemen.

"When all of them are on the ice we are in really good shape, but if the right buy comes onto the market then we can move quickly, but I waited when I was here last time and got Jeffrey Szwez – and look how he turned out."

The Giants collected five Challenge Cup points from their three games in Scotland last weekend, as well as two in the league.

Two victories this weekend will all but guarantee progress to the next stage of the Challenge Cup and Thornton is keen to tick that particular box as quickly as possible before setting about achieving higher goals.

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