Belfast Giants’ title bid back on course
Belfast Giants 3 Nottingham Panthers 1
Steve Thornton is riding the highs again — and who could blame him.
At any other time the Belfast Giants player-coach would have spent all week dwelling on the embarrassment of last Sunday night’s surrender to the Newcastle Vipers at the Odyssey, when a 4-0 lead turned into a penalty shoot-out defeat.
There was no time to get bogged down in doom and gloom though as the following morning Thornton’s wife Beth gave birth to the couple’s third daughter.
That not only lifted the mood, but also put the defeat to the Vipers into perspective for Thornton.
The highs just keep coming though as the Giants responded from the humiliation of throwing away two points against Newcastle and took all four from the home double header against the Nottingham Panthers on Friday and Saturday night.
And there is now new life in the Giants Elite League title bid after 4-2 and 3-1 wins in the space of 24 hours.
George Awada struck the opening goal with just over a minute gone on Saturday, with Colin Shields and Pat Bateman making sure of the win after Bruce Richardson’s equaliser — in a game where for a change the Giants were vastly out-shot by their opponents.
“I’m loving being a dad again,” said Thornton.
“Our last daughter was quite hard work when she was born, but it’s been easier this time, so far.
“It’s been a good week after last Sunday night. I didn’t get to think about that game an awful lot because we were straight to the hos
pital first thing on Monday morning, but it still hurts.
“There have been lows and highs in the space of seven days, but the highs vastly outweigh the lows.
“After last weekend we played really well in both games against Nottingham.
“In any game there are mistakes and we will make them every weekend, but the guys cut down the mistakes, they were committed, the effort was there.
“They wanted to win for the team and they’ve got us back into a good position, which we needed after the weekend before because not only did we lose to Newcastle, we lost in Hull as well.
“This weekend we got all four points and those weekends are very valuable.”
Thornton readily accepts that his is the toughest job in the Elite League.
The level of expectation in Belfast is as high — if not higher — as anywhere in the league, even though the team has been in existence less than a decade.
“It feels fantastic, but one good weekend won’t make our season,” he said.
“One bad weekend could break it, so we have to keep going.
“The expectation in Belfast is high, there is a demand to win something every season, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.
“I wouldn’t like to be in a place where losing is okay.
“We’ve a tough schedule coming up and this just has to be a springboard for us.”
There is no time for a reward for the Giants players after their productive weekend.
Instead it was straight back onto the ice this morning preparing for more vital games.
“We might have beaten Nottingham twice, but I am still not satisfied,” he said.
“We normally have Mondays off after travelling back from an away game on Sunday, but there is no day off this week because I still haven’t forgotten about last Sunday.”