Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Giants must put out Blaze to be champs: Thornton

By Stuart McKinley

Steve Thornton last night conceded that the Belfast Giants can’t claim to be worthy champions if they go through the season without beating Coventry Blaze.

Giant performance: Goaltender Stephen Murphy is in top form for the Belfast Giants

The Giants player-coach has seen his team lose all five meetings with the current Elite League leaders this season — and he has had enough of it.

Thornton has told his players that unless they come out on top in tonight’s top of the table battle with Blaze at the Odyssey, their chances of getting their hands on the Monteith Bowl will be extremely slim.

While it would still be possible to win the league without a victory over Coventry, with Blaze currently topping the table by five points and with a match in hand, it is vital that the Giants take the opportunity to narrow the gap.

“We haven’t beaten Coventry this season and we’ve got to find a way to do that,” said Thornton.

“It’s been frustrating against them because other than the last game when we lost 7-1 we have played well against them and we dominated them last season.

“We have had possession, we have had chances and we’ve had shots, but that counts for nothing unless you win and we’ve got to get on top of them early and put pressure on their goalie.

“Ultimately we’ve got to score goals and execute our chances if we are to win the game.

“We want to be champions, but if we don’t beat Coventry it will be hard to do that. We can’t rely on other teams and if we don’t beat them then we don’t deserve to win the league.”

Probably the most annoying aspect of the Giants’ games against Coventry this season for Thornton has been the fact that the performances haven’t brought the rewards.

This time how his team plays in secondary.

“I would rather play badly and win than play well and lose,” said Thornton.

“How we play doesn’t matter, it is all about the result and getting the win.

“We have lost five games at home this season and three of them have been to Coventry.

“This is our best chance of getting a win against them because we don’t play them at home again, but we do play them away twice and it would be good to be going there in the last game with the title to play for.”

Goaltender Stephen Murphy won back-to-back man-of-the-match awards in Sheffield last weekend and he is coming back into top form at a good time for the team.

If he can frustrate the Blaze attack then there is no doubt that the Giants have the firepower to win tonight’s game.

The statistics show that Murphy is the top goaltender in the league at present, but he doesn’t care about that, all he wants is a win against Coventry tonight and two more points in Nottingham tomorrow evening.

“I'd trade those stats 10 times out of 10 for two wins this weekend,” said Murphy

“All I want to do is give the team a chance to win and make sure that when they need me to make the save, I am there to do it.

“This weekend is massive. These games against Coventry and Nottingham will be a battle, but we are in good form right now and if we play like we can and have been recently then there is no reason why we cannot come out on top come Sunday night.”

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