Belfast Telegraph

Steve Thornton has a Giant drive for future success

By Stuart McKinley

Steve Thornton doesn't own a DeLorean, but tonight he will attempt to lead the Belfast Giants back to the future.

Four years after walking away from ice hockey altogether after guiding the Giants to three trophies in two seasons, Thornton has returned to the Odyssey Arena.

There is no flux capacitor to help him, instead he will use the fact that both he and his team have unfinished business, albeit for slightly different reasons, for motivation.

Before he gave Giants fans the Play-off title as his farewell gift in 2010, Thornton had suffered the heartbreak of losing out on the league title by a point.

His players – 16 of the 18-man squad have returned from last season – tasted sweet success when they took the Elite League crown under previous coach Paul Adey in February, but at the bitter end there was disappointment when they blew a first-leg lead in the Challenge Cup final and then lost the Play-off final, both to the Nottingham Panthers.

"It may be largely the same team, but there is a different coach and a different season and I expect there to be different challenges along the way too," said Thornton, whose side have been handed a tough start to their defence as they face a triple-header in Scotland against the Dundee Stars tonight, Braehead Clan tomorrow and the Edinburgh Capitals on Sunday.

"When you expect the same guys to get the same results then I think complacency can set in and that is something we must avoid.

"The team won the league in style last season, but there was disappointment that they didn't win all three trophies when they were in a great position to do so and there is unfinished business to take care of now.

"The guys have all returned in great shape and I think there is a a feeling that they can accomplish more this season."

Three matches in as many nights away from home presents a challenge of its own, but there are a number of factors to take into account as Thornton looks for a winning start to the title defence.

"The thing with this weekend is that for all three teams we are playing it's their home opener," said Thornton.

"They will all be pumped and playing the champions at home in their first game gives them all an extra incentive."

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