Steve Thornton has all but given up on the Elite League title dream.
The Belfast Giants coach, however, won’t be letting his players ease off as the Sheffield Steelers prepare to be crowned champions.
Instead Thornton wants to see his players step up a gear in order to bring three other pieces of silverware to Belfast.
The Challenge Cup final, a Knockout Cup semi-final and the Play-off Championship have all still to come for the Giants and the disappointment of last Sunday night’s defeat in Sheffield, which really dealt a final blow to league title ambitions, won’t be allowed to bear down on the players.
“The league is more or less over for us,” admitted Thornton.
“It is going to be difficult to come back. Sheffield have only lost three games in regulation time all season and we need them to lose more than that in the games they have left for us to have a chance.
“We can’t expect them to go on that kind of losing streak.
“They have had a good year, they deserve to be where they are and all we can do is congratulate them when they do finally clinch it.”
While the fight for first place in over bar the shouting, the battle for second is intensifying.
The Nottingham Panthers, who visit the Odyssey Arena tonight, currently occupy that position, but they are only two points better off than the Giants with one game more played and that advantage could be wiped out by close of play.
Outgoing champions Coventry Blaze — who the Giants face on Sunday — are also in the mix, with the same number of points as the Belfast men and a game less played.
“I would like to have finished first, but if we can’t do that then we have got to keep working and
fighting because there are a lot of big games still to come for us and you can’t turn form on and off like a switch,” said Thornton.
“We still have a chance to finish the season with some silverware and whoever we play in the Play-offs I like our chances against anyone when we have a full team on the ice.
“We have around 20 games left and a tough schedule, but we have to work through it and try to make it end successfully.”
The Giants medical staff will make late checks today on the fitness of leading goalscorer Paul Deniset and Andrew Martin.
Bobby Robins remains out and it is likely to be a couple of weeks before he is able to make his return to the line-up, at which stage Thornton may have a decision to make, with one import too many.