Belfast Telegraph

Hull's sting in the tail still hurts Giants

By Stuart McKinley

Steve Thornton has branded the Belfast Giants' clash with the Hull Stingrays at the Odyssey Arena tonight (7.00pm) as a must-win game - but even a victory won't be enough to take away the hurt of a painful defeat on Humberside a month ago.

The Giants coach has been unable to banish the memory of that 3-2 loss in the Hull Arena, firstly because his team had played well enough to win the game, but were let down by poor finishing, and secondly because the points dropped both that night and in a home game against Fife are what separate them from Braehead Clan at the top of the Elite League table.

Clan may have played two games more than the Giants, but after studying each team's schedule closely, Thornton knows that any defeats at all, particularly in cross-Conference games like those against Hull and the Dundee Stars this weekend, could end their hopes of retaining the title.

"These are must-wins. The cross-Conference games are the ones you have to get the wins from," said Thornton.

"Braehead only have six more games against teams in our Conference and they seem to be doing well in their own division right now.

"The home games specifically are important.

"I always try to look forward. You win, you lose, you learn from it and move on and try to find a way to get better, but the wins are easier to move on from.

"The losses, you find a way to dwell on them and the ones that hurt me the most still are the games against Fife and Hull, because if we'd have won them we'd be in a great position.

"We still are, we have put ourselves back in contention by playing well over the last month. Chemistry had started to form, the little things were getting done and the urgency has been there."

The Giants are still affected by injuries, with goaltender Stephen Murphy and last season's top scorer Kevin Saurette both still some way from making a return.

Thornton is hopeful that Mark Garside will be back in the line-up this weekend, but it will be a late call on the Scotsman's fitness.

After beating fellow title contenders Sheffield twice last weekend Thornton's fear isn't consistency, but rather the motivation that other teams have when they come to Belfast.

"It's an easy game to get motivated for," said Thornton.

"You go into the smaller rinks and the dressing rooms aren't quite as nice and the travel is tough. It's more difficult to get motivated. Here they fly, they get to spend a night and it's a good town to go out and I think guys really enjoy coming here."

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