Thornton’s Belfast Giants title vow
Steve Thornton has told his Belfast Giants players that he won’t accept any excuses for not winning the Elite League title.
The league has always been placed at the top of the player-coach’s priority list, but there is more importance placed on it now that the Giants bowed out of the Challenge Cup on Wednesday night to the Cardiff Devils.
And that defeat has lead Thornton to deliver the message to his men that they must develop tunnel vision in the quest to be champions, with nothing else now to get in their way.
“Not reaching the Challenge Cup final and not being able to defend our trophy might turn out to be a blessing,” said Thornton.
“When I look back to the position we were in last season we talked a lot about the schedule we had with league games and the two finals against Manchester with the games piling up.
“This season we don’t have that. We can concentrate on the league and then the play-offs will look after themselves when the time comes.
“There are no more excuses, they are all gone.
“We have a chance now to put pressure on Coventry and go for the league, which is the trophy that we really want.”
Thornton is targeting four points from tonight’s trip to the Hull Stingrays and tomorrow’s rare Sunday home game against the Newcastle Vipers and with the two teams above them in the league — Coventry and Nottingham — meeting tomorrow evening, points will be dropped somewhere along the line and it’s up to the Giants to take advantage by recording back-to-back wins.
The Giants hopes of winning the league took a blow yesterday when it was confirmed that the in-form Brandon Benedict will miss the next month of action.
He suffered a broken jaw in the semi-final defeat. It is broken in two places and he has already had surgery, with a minimum four-week recovery period.
“It’s very disappointing for us to lose a guy like Brandon Benedict because he’s been so effective for us lately and has been scoring goals,” said Thornton.
“It’s typical that we have one weekend where everyone is healthy and then we lose someone else.
“He’s got to see a specialist on Monday to determine how long he’s going to be out and hopefully it won’t be any longer than the four weeks.”
Thornton himself will miss this weekend’s action too with a foot injury — he didn’t take part in yesterday’s practice session as he was unable to lace up his skates.
He wouldn’t have played against Hull tonight anyway as he and wife Beth prepare for the imminent arrival of their third child, which is due to be born on Monday.
The absence of Benedict and Thornton means that there is no decision to be made this weekend about the two imports to drop out as the Giants now have a bigger squad than planned after the return of George Awada from injury.
Meanwhile Craig Peacock has joined the All Star game line-ups.