Belfast Giant Bateman keeps his eyes on Capitals
Pat Bateman last night insisted that he and his Belfast Giants team-mates haven’t let Sunday night’s massive clash with Coventry Blaze sway their focus on a more immediate mission.
The Elite League’s top two teams go into battle in the Coventry Skydome with top of the table Blaze holding a three-point lead over the Giants.
And while the title destiny won’t completely rest on that particular 60 minutes, it will be very difficult for Steve Thornton’s men to pip their rivals to the crown if they are beaten.
Bateman, however, is well aware that anything less than victory at home to the Edinburgh Capitals at the Odyssey Arena this evening could deal a serious blow to their title aspirations long before the Giants board their flight to the West Midlands tomorrow morning.
“We'll be focusing on Edinburgh and only Edinburgh until after Saturday's game and only then can we shift our focus onto Sunday's game with Coventry.” said Bateman.
In five games between the teams so far the Giants haven’t slipped up against Edinburgh and Bateman — who fought Capitals goaltender Cody Rudkowsky earlier in the season in one of the most entertaining moments ever seen at the Odyssey — isn’t in the mood to see that statistic changed.
“We may have gotten the better of Edinburgh so far this season, but we have seen the damage that they can cause with victories over both Nottingham and Coventry,” he said.
“If we start to think about Sunday's game and let up on Saturday night then Edinburgh will have no hesitation in punishing us.”
Edinburgh lost to Coventry in overtime last weekend, but they can still have a big say in where the title ends up.
Not only do they host the Giants in a double-header in Scotland next weekend, they face Blaze home and away in the final week of the season, with Coventry in Edinburgh the night before the last game of the campaign, when they host the Belfast men in what could be a winner-takes-all clash.
Thornton is ready for whatever challenges he faces over the next three weeks and is determined to keep fighting to add the league crown to the British Knockout Cup and Challenge Cup titles he won last season.
“Edinburgh are a very skilled team, good on the powerplay and have the ability to beat you one on one,” he said. “Their coach, Doug Christiansen has done a great job there and has his team playing on the same page night after night.
“We want to play the game in their end of the ice and put as much pressure on their goalie as possible.
“We also have to be aware of who we are out on the ice against as their top guys are very dangerous and will hurt you if given any opportunity.
“I've thought there was always a chance we could win the league, but there was a point a couple of weeks ago when it was out of our hands.
“We needed help and were fortunate that Coventry dropped some points and opened it back up. We have to beat them again and they will probably drop some more points before it's over.
“Although it would be difficult to win every game because of how tight the league is we have to go into every weekend looking for four points. That's still the goal.”