Steve Thornton: Fear of failure spurs Belfast Giants on
Belfast Giants 6-3 Sheffield Steelers
Steve Thornton has revealed that a fear of letting their team-mates down is driving his Belfast Giants players in their quest to retain the Elite League title.
While the coach is never one to settle for sloppy performances, it is the demanding nature of their peers that has the players pushing hard to keep the Monteith Bowl in Belfast.
And that spirit among the team was never more in evidence than on a weekend when the Giants came from behind not once, but twice to beat title rivals the Sheffield Steelers at the Odyssey Arena.
They trailed 2-0 before pulling off a thrilling 5-3 win on Friday night. Twenty four hours later, they were 2-1 down - Colin Shields scoring - and had two goals struck off by the officials before Cody Brookwell, Darryl Lloyd, Ray Sawada, Craig Peacock and Mike Kompon all found the net legitimately as they went one better, winning 6-3 to go above the Steelers in the table.
Braehead Clan are four points clear at the top after they too won twice over the weekend.
The Giants, however, have a number of things working in their favour, firstly two games in hand over the leaders, a great deal of momentum after winning eight of their last nine games and - not least - that hunger in the ranks.
"We are on a nice little roll right now, there is a good feeling in the locker room and I think the guys are enjoying it again," said Thornton.
"Guys are holding each other accountable on the bench. If someone takes a shift off it's not necessarily me having to come over and tap them on the shoulder, the guys are on them.
"That's chemistry and when that starts forming only good things can happen."
After tomorrow night's Challenge Cup quarter-final first leg against the Cardiff Devils at the Odyssey, the Giants then face the Steelers again and the Nottingham Panthers three times over the next month, as well as Hull, Dundee, Edinburgh and Fife, in what could be a pivotal period in the title race.
Thornton doesn't expect to see anyone emerge from the pack to take a strong lead in the title race and just wants to make sure that his team stays in touch with even more big games to come in February and March.
"If the lines keep rolling like they are, the defence keep playing solid and making decisions on when to pinch and when to jump in and if Carsen (Chubak) makes the saves then we are as good as anybody," said Thornton.
"There is going to be a lot of leapfrogging over the next three, four, five weeks."