By Kris Smith
Tonight the Stars face the Guildford Flames for the first time in 12 years and Dundee are ready to win some much needed points on home ice.
The Stars welcome Paul Dixon’s side to the Dundee Ice Arena on Saturday for the first time since the English teams joined the Elite League. The last time both the Stars and Flames met was back in the British National League season of 2004-05, when Dundee beat Guildford in that year’s playoff final.
Guildford sit in 9th place on 9 points in the league standings just 3 points ahead of Omar Pacha’s side, thus back-to-back wins over the Flames could lift Dundee up from 11th to 8th place.
Dundee took three points from their double header against Coventry with a 3-2 overtime victory on the road but suffered a 2-1 overtime defeat on home ice last Sunday. Meanwhile Guildford suffered a 5-4 defeat, away to the Belfast Giants before beating league leaders, the Manchester Storm, 6-4 at home.
The Flames have scored 59 goals in 16 games and conceded 64, whereas the Stars have scored 40 goals and conceded 66 goals in 16 games. Guildford only won one game in September but turned it around and so far have lost only two in October.
Dundee are still short benched going into the weekend, due to recurring injury concerns. Anthony Mastrodicasa made his return to the ice last weekend after missing four weeks, following an upper body injury that he sustained in Sheffield. He left the ice in the second period last Sunday against Coventry with another upper body injury and is doubtful to feature this weekend but it is considered a short-term injury.
Johan Andersson can potentially make his return after sitting out last weekend’s games also with an upper body injury and Cameron McGiffin has been ruled out in the long term but his season is not over. Head coach Omar Pacha ices again this weekend, due to the team’s current injury problems.
After two new signings were announced this month, two players have also left the club. Justin Fox and Brian Hart were brought in to boost the Stars offensive output after a short spell of poor production. Earlier in the month, Tyler Brickler parted ways with the club and it was announced this week that Patrick Lee had left the club.
The Flames have had some worrying times also this week as one player was medically advised to retire, after sustaining a significant concussion that has ended his career at just 24-years old. David Lillieström Karlsson joined the Flames this summer and made only 7 appearances, scoring 4 goals and 2 assists, before his season was cut short.
Johan Andersson leads the Stars in points with 2 goals and 10 assists for 12 points from 12 games and Gabriel Lévesque is Dundee’s highest scoring defenceman with 2 goals and 8 assists in 14 games.
Travis Fullerton will be backstopping in nets for the Stars this weekend, after an outstanding performance last weekend, where he continually made game-changing saves to deny Danny Stewart’s Blaze. In a post-match interview, the Coventry head coach discussed Fullerton, he said: “That goalie is a good goalie and he proved that tonight, he gave them a chance to win.”
His counterpart is a fellow Canadian, Chris Carrozzi. He joined the Flames this month as injury cover when their starting goaltender and former Elite League playoff champion, Brian Stewart was side-lined by injury for a number of weeks.
Paul Dixon’s team possess many goal scoring threats and John Dunbar has been the spearhead of the Flames attacking output. He leads Guildford’s points charts with 10 goals and 18 assists for 28 points from 14 games and won this week’s EIHL player of the week award.
Ex-Star Mikael Lidhammar returns to the DIA for the first time since signing for the English side, after two years in Tayside with Dundee. So far he has bagged 2 goals and assisted 4 times from 14 games for his new club.
Dundee Stars head coach, Omar Pacha, said: “It is a big weekend for us, we are hoping to keep improving as a team and we are looking to create more scoring chances than last weekend and it will hopefully result in more goals scored.
“We need to still be steady in the back and make sure we protect Fullerton as well as possible, it will be another good test against a side that has been doing well this year.”
Talking ahead of the weekend, Dundee Stars forward, Jordan Cownie said: “Guildford have always been known as a professional organisation so I expect nothing less this year. They are a young team and so are we, so I am pretty sure it will be a high intensity encounter. “We’ve had a good week of practice building off the back of our 3 point weekend. It will be a good chance for us this weekend to play two solid 60 minute games and hopefully really kickstart our season into gear and then get rolling on from there.”