Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Giants to get ugly in battle for title glory

By Stuart McKinley

Steve Thornton is prepared to win ugly, if that's what it takes for the Belfast Giants to retain the Elite League title.

As far as the coach is concerned the Giants have been involved in too many high-scoring matches and instead of entertaining the crowds with lots of goals, he wants fans to enjoy seeing their team win tight games between now and the end of the season.

The Giants are seven points behind league leaders Braehead Clan, but they have two games in hand, as well as a trip to Glasgow to come in three weeks time.

It is ending a four-match losing streak by taking maximum points in Sheffield and Edinburgh this weekend that comes first though.

"We can't be in a position where we need to score five or six goals to win a game," said Thornton.

"If we can keep the score down we have more chance of winning and we're good at grinding it out."

The Giants injury list hasn't got any shorter, with Stephen Murphy, Kevin Saurette and Mark Garside still on the long-term list and Curtis Huppe will travel in anticipation of being used as cover.

Thornton, however, doesn't want the missing players to impact on the mindset of those who will be on the ice.

"We don't use injuries as an excuse, but it's hard to be consistent when you are missing some of your top guys and Stephen Murphy, Kevin Saurette and Mark Garside are top guys," said Thornton.

"Murphy is the best goaltender in the league, Saurette was the top scorer last season but he's hardly played this season and Garside is a GB international.

"Although we've had injuries the expectation remains the same - and that's to win."

It's not all doom and gloom for the Giants though. Before the current run of losses they had won eight out of nine.

"Our powerplay is going - we've been switching between first and second in the league with Cardiff all season - and our penalty kill hasn't been too bad," said Thornton.

"I'd like it to be better, but Saurette and Garside are two guys who block shots and without them we're just not blocking shots, which puts pressure on your goaltender.

"We are playing in a different way than I wanted to because of injuries, but we still need to be competitive every night."

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