Steve Thornton has accused the Newcastle Vipers of a lack of respect after finding himself unable to play his normal game in Saturday night’s 3-2 Challenge Cup win at the Odyssey.
The Belfast Giants coach slammed Rob Wilson’s side’s tactics in the run up to the game and as it turned out Thornton got worse treatment that he had anticipated.
The bad blood between Thornton and the Vipers stems from an incident in Newcastle when he clashed with Andre Payette and after the game tape was sent for disciplinary review a 2+2 minute penalty became a nine-match suspension.
That was reduced to four on appeal, allowing Thornton to return to the line-up in time for Saturday night’s game, with the Giants win confirming their place in the last four of the Challenge Cup and knocking Newcastle out.
“I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew right from the warm-up what sort of game I was in for,” said Thornton.
“There was things being yelled at me and it was something that I have never experienced before.
“Usually there is more respect that than, but there was no respect from Newcastle at all.
“There tactic seemed to be to target me. Maybe that was there way of getting revenge or something, I don’t know, but that’s not the reason why I put my equipment on every day.
“I am big enough and experienced enough to be able to deal with it, but it was all so over the top.
“I wasn’t able to play my normal game by drawing a couple of guys and then finding someone in open ice with the puck.
“Every time I got the puck I knew there was going to be a couple of guys going form, so I didn’t hold the puck for long, but I did take a regular shift until the last few minutes.”
The opening period was one of total domination for the Giants, outshooting the Vipers by an amazing 18-1, which is all the most unusual given that Newcastle needed to win to stay in contention for the semi-finals and the Giants had back-up goaltender Nathan Craze starting for the first time this season.
They didn’t show much more in the second period, with just eight shots from the visitors compared to the Giants’ 22 — although this time one managed to find the net with Colin Shields opening the scoring.
Marek Ivan levelled for Newcastle early in the third period, but the Giants lead was restored through Mike Burgoyne’s strike five minutes later.
Todd Griffith again put the teams on level terms, but just before overtime ensued, Dave Phillips scored his first goal for the club to secure the win.
Although Thornton wasn’t happy with certain things that happened on the ice, he won’t be following Newcastle’s lead and send the tape to the league.
“There were maybe four or five incidents during the game that we could ask the league to look at, but we have to pay for that and we don’t think it is something worth doing,” said Thornton.