Belfast Giants General Manager Steve Thornton has hailed the job of coach Adam Keefe as they prepare for Sunday’s Challenge Cup Final in Cardiff.

Former captain Keefe made the move behind the bench at the start of the season and has impressed as he gets ready to lead his team against Cardiff Devils with a trophy up for grabs.

And Thornton, who is the only Giants coach to have won the competition when they took the prize in 2009, reckons his coach is one of the best leaders he’s ever seen.

“Adam’s done a fantastic job this season and every team goes through difficulties at some point in their campaigns, with regards to injuries and chemistry,” Thornton said.

“We’ve had our fair share of it and often, especially in the early part.  When you lose two guys who are GB internationals, you lose their depth.

“We’ve asked more of guys than we would maybe like and had to change the way we play.  With the other injuries, Keefe did the hell of a job motivating players and we knew he would.

“He’s one of the best leaders I’ve ever seen and I think a lot of the players who played with him when he was captain would probably agree.

“The commitment he’s put in has gone above and beyond and the best thing has been his attitude.

“He comes in every morning, puts the hard hat on and puts in the hours.  The players see that and he’s someone they want to follow.”

Thornton returned to the club as GM and head coach in 2014 after the departure of Todd Kelman, now at Cardiff and Paul Adey.

It’s his first cup final since returning and like everyone else around the club, is looking forward to the occasion in Cardiff.

The 44-year-old looked ahead to what’s in store, but admits they’ve got quite a test on their hands when they come up against the current holders.

He added: “Everybody in sport loves trying to play for championships and for us, that was the goal when I came back here so I’m excited to be one game away.

“Cardiff have a great team so it’s going to be a tough one.  In one game, two good teams are going head to head and I expect both teams to bring their ‘A’ game.

“From a Giants perspective, we always want to win trophies and it’s important we look forward rather than look back.

“We’re trying to focus on what we can control and that’s this Sunday and trying to get the best out of the players to give ourselves a chance.

“I think it’s going to be two great hockey teams going head to head. When it comes down to games like this, it can come down to special teams, goaltending and some puck luck and I hope it comes down for Belfast Giants.”

PHOTO:  Belfast Giants

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