Belfast Telegraph

Thornton laid the groundwork for our league push: Walser

By Stuart McKinley

Derrick Walser has put the Belfast Giants’ sustained title challenge down to the amount of hard work done behind the scenes, going back to last summer.

After finishing fourth last season, Walser drew up a wish list for Director of Hockey Operations Steve Thornton, who got to work on building a team that both men believed would be capable of being in the mix to bring Elite League glory to Belfast for the first time since 2014.

Going into this weekend’s slightly unusual double-header against the Nottingham Panthers — the first match is tonight and the second on Sunday while a Bee Gees tribute act performs at the SSE Arena on Saturday — the Giants are still in the hunt to end the season as number one.

Two wins will mean the Giants are Stayin’ Alive in the title race, which the Cardiff Devils lead by seven points, with two more home games to come before heading to Wales for an end-of-season double-header weekend when they hope to still have something to play for.

“I’ll put it down to Steve Thornton doing a great job finding three lines that I wanted,” said Walser of his predecessor as coach and the man who employed him 20 months ago.

“I wanted three lines, four lines that could play all night long because you can’t win with a two-line team.

“That’s why the big boys — Sheffield, Nottingham and Cardiff — are there every year. They roll four lines, especially when you’re back-to-back, nine games, 18 days and all that, you can’t do it with two.

“Last year we never had any consistency with it, this year we are getting consistency with scoring right throughout the line-up and that’s why we’ve gone on runs.”

The Giants have put three wins in a row on the board — including victory in Nottingham a fortnight ago — since the back-to-back defeats to the Cardiff Devils, which has left them needing favours in the title race.

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