By Kris Smith
The Kitmart Dundee Stars host their biggest rivals for the last time this season as they aim to get their playoff-push back on track against Fife Flyers this Sunday.
Dundee were victorious in the first five games against Fife this season but the Flyers finally won in the last meeting back in December. The Stars took 3-1 and 3-2 (Shootout) wins in the Challenge Cup group stage before beating the Kirkcaldy club in the next two games 3-0 and 4-3 (shootout).
Omar Pacha’s side made it five wins in a row over their biggest rivals, with a 5-4 victory on home ice before losing 3-0 in Kirkcaldy the following night.
Stars do not have the best form coming into the weekend, as they failed to snap their losing streak last week after an overtime loss to Milton Keynes Lightning before being beaten twice by Glasgow Clan in three days.
However, Flyers put together a two-game winning streak after beating Manchester Storm 2-1 on Sunday evening. Goals from Danick Gauthier and Bari McKenzie lifted them to a victory despite the feisty overspill at the end of a game which seen two Storm players banned and Fife’s Evan Stoflet suspended for six games. This streak was concluded last night following a home defeat to Coventry Blaze.
Dundee’s 5-1 loss to Clan on Tuesday meant that Fife were dethroned as Gairdner Conference Champions.
The Tayside club were dealt a huge blow this week, as it was confirmed that their top point scorer, François Bouchard was going to be out for the next three to six months.
The Canadian’s season was ended with Stars in eighth place and 15 games left in the Elite League campaign but he is also there leading point scorer against the Flyers this season with seven points in six games.
A few other Stars players have racked up points against Fife with Drydn Dow putting up six and Brian Hart, Connor Cox and Jordan Cownie each scoring five points.
Stars head coach, Pacha seen his injury list grow as Mike Sullivan went off injured on Tuesday night in Braehead as he heroically blocked a shot with his face.
Sullivan’s injury is yet to be given a timescale before he could return to the ice but the defenceman is set to undergo surgery.
Dundee played all of last week without defender, Petr Chaloupka because of an upper body injury and it is unknown if he will be fit to play this Sunday.
The Flyers were missing five players from their roster on Sunday. Reece Cochrane, Chris Wands, Calum Robertson, Craig Douglas and Chase Schaber all did not ice for Todd Dutiaume’s line-up.
This week, Omar Pacha has preached getting back to basics for side and he said: “We just have to get back to basics and see who is healthy enough for Sunday.
“We just have to get back to what we are good at and well defensively.”
“It will be tough, it is always tough but we have to make sure we out-work other teams and we capitalise on our chances.
“We have to be bolder and make sure we go to war.”
Fife were in action last night whereas Dundee had a Saturday night off, although, Pacha does not think it will give his side a big edge over Fife.
“Not really, you never now, we just have to prepare for the game on Sunday and sometimes it is easier to play on Saturday but with the schedule being played on Sunday, we just have to use that to our advantage but it is maybe a good opportunity to get an extra few days off and let the guys rest,” added Omar.
The Stars general manager also shared his message to the fans ahead of the last home derby of this season.
He said: “Our backs are against the wall, so the guys have to push and we know the rink can get really really loud.
“It is a great rivalry, we always get packed houses, so we are just going to try and give them something to cheer about and we want them to keep pushing us until the end.”
Sunday’s game at the DIA will face-off at 5pm.