By Kris Smith
Dundee Stars face their rivals Fife Flyers in back-to-back games this weekend with both teams looking to end losing streaks.
The Kitmart Dundee Stars take-on the Fife Flyers in an East Coast derby that pits the third place Flyers against bottom of the league Dundee on Saturday and Sunday evening.
Dundee’s injury troubles have cleared up and they will have a full roster available for the league double header. Petr Chaloupka was side-lined last weekend with an upper body injury. Todd Dutiaume’s side were missing Chris Wands, Calum Robertson and Craig Douglas for their mid-week trip to Cardiff.
Both teams come into the weekend in bad form, with Fife losing their last three matches and Dundee their previous five. Stars conceded on a lucky bounce in the final period against Coventry Blaze and that cost them the game after a dominant start in England. However, they managed to keep up with the defending champions for 40 minutes on Sunday but Cardiff Devils moved out of reach in the third period to claim the two points in Dundee.
Fife were hammered 6-2 at home to Sheffield on Saturday, with head coach Dutiaume describing his powerplay as “pedestrian” after wasting eight chances on the man advantage. They rescued a point on Sunday against Nottingham after forcing the Panthers into a shootout but the home side emerged victorious after Fife failed to score any of their penalty shots.
The Kirkcaldy club also played the Devils on Wednesday and after allowing a two-goal lead to the home side in the first period, they eventually fell 3-0 behind in the third stanza. Flyers pulled back two goals inside the last 10 minutes and put the pressure on Cardiff but the reigning champions were able to hold out for a 3-2 win.
Last time Fife and Dundee met was back in September in the Challenge Cup group stage. The first encounter was in Kirkcaldy where early goals from François Bouchard and Drydn Dow gave Stars the lead in the first period. Brian Hart added a third goal just after the halfway mark and Dundee were in full control of the game. A late powerplay strike from Chase Schaber prevented a shutout for Pontus Sjögren in the Dundee net, as Fife finally scored on their ninth of ten powerplay attempts.
The fixture was reversed the following night as Stars played hosts but after a scoreless first period, Dutiaume’s Flyers opened the scoring through Evan Bloodoff. The forward made Dundee pay with a shorthanded goal but Stars were quick to respond with a powerplay goal. A shot from Connor Cox hit Jordan Cownie before landing in the Fife net and moments later, Matt Marquardt fired the home side into lead with another powerplay goal.
Jordan Buesa tied the game in the third period but after an extra five minutes of play, the game was still undecided. Mike Cazzola buried his chance on Fife’s first shot before Petr Chaloupka, Danick Gauthier, Marquardt, Schaber, Bouchard, Bloodoff, Johan Andersson and Carlo Finucci all failed to score.
Dundee’s Charlie Corcoran beat Shane Owen through his five-hole to send the game into sudden death. The order was reversed and Corcoran stepped up again and beat the Flyers keeper with the exact same move to give Stars the advantage. Fife sent out their previous scorer, Cazzola but he could not beat Sjögren for a second time and Dundee claimed their second win in a row over their biggest rivals.
Paul Crowder leads both Fife and the entire league in points with 33 from 25 games, scoring 14 goals and assisting on 19 occasions. Also, Brett Bulmer is the third overall in the points standings with 28 points from 22 appearances.
Lukas Lundvald is still Dundee’s top scorer with 8 goals and 11 assists in 22 games. Dundee’s Brian Hart is currently on a four-game point scoring streak with an assist in each match and will be keen to continue his involvement in his team’s offence.
Stars netminder, Pontus Sjögren put in two excellent performances against Fife in their last two meetings and the Swede knows it will be another set of difficult games.
He said: “They will be two tough games for sure and they are in the top part of the league, so we have to play good to win.
“I think we will bounce back on Saturday, last weekend was a step forward even if we did not get the results we wanted but we will build from there.
“The key is to play like we did in the beginning of the season, we are a hard-working team that plays to the system structures and continuously for 60 minutes.
“If we play a solid defence like we showed before, we will be a successful team.
“We want to win every game badly but off course, these games against Fife are special and we would like to have that same feeling we had that weekend when we beat them twice.”
The 33-year old experienced shot stopper insists that Stars are playing well and that their poor form is just a phase.
Sjögren added: “We started the season good and played well even if we did not get any wins.
“Recently we have not played as well as we wish to but you always have ups and downs during a season.”
Saturday’s game faces-off at 7pm, with Sunday’s game at the Fife Ice Arena beginning at 6:30pm.