By Kris Smith
The first game of the 2018-19 season has arrived for the Kitmart Dundee Stars and it will be a tough test for the Tayside team.
EHC Freiburg of the DEL2 are the first opponents Omar Pacha will test his side against. It is a new look Stars side that have been put through their paces all week in training camp and each player is eager to show what they can do for both the coach and the fans.
The Stars head coach shared his thought on the preseason camp, saying: “It has gone well, the guys are really responding well and the work ethic is high.
“It seems like guys were a bit fatigued on Thursday, but they still worked hard, they still had a high energy and I seen a lot of good things.
“It is all very encouraging, but we are just looking forward to seeing how we compare to other teams and how we respond to a game situation.”
Pacha then outlined his expectations for the weekend and what he hopes to learn, he said: “I just want to learn a bit more about us a team.
“Things like how we play, how guys will react in game type situations, whether it be defensive zones, neutral zones, offensive zones or powerplays and penalty kills, just how guys will react to a team that has been together for a few weeks now.”
Discussing the reason behind why they chose to play Freiburg in their only preseason action, Pacha commented: “We just thought the time would be right to play a team outside of our league and its different for us and different for the fans.
“So, it is just a good combination of everything and we are happy to have them here.”
With just a week left until the first competitive game, the head coach has liked what he has seen and is excited to get the new campaign underway.
Pacha said: “We have only had five practices, but I have seen a lot of good things and seen a good buzz around the locker room.
“I think early on it is always hard to tell, you know some guys are finding their game, some guys are progressively going to get better throughout the season.
“All in all, I am happy with what I see, and I am looking forward to getting started.”
The Wolves have already played five games with a record of one win and four losses, also they have since added Canadian forward, Stephan Seeger to their line-up, bringing their total squad count to twenty-four compared to Dundee’s eighteen.
Freiburg played their first preseason game over three weeks ago against Swiss side, EHC Visp and lost out 5-2 on the road. Sergei Stas and Jiri Fronk found the net to draw the Germans level before a disappointing third period collapse.
They returned home four days later to face the Schwenninger Wild Wings in the Black Forrest Derby but were beaten 3-2 on penalty shots after Alex Minor-Barron and Marc Wittfoth put the Wolves ahead twice.
The following weekend they welcomed HC Ajoie but were handed a third straight loss with last season’s top scorer, Nikolas Linsenmaier, providing the only goal in a 4-1 defeat. The following night seen Freiburg shutout 4-0 in Switzerland as HC Ajoie skated to a second straight victory.
Last weekend they hosted another swiss opponent in Ticino Rockets and finally claimed their first victory of the preseason. After falling behind 1-0 halfway through the first period, Leos Sulak’s men rallied in the second period to draw level through Christian Neuert before goals from Jannik Herm, Stas and Mason Baptista secured a 4-1 victory.
Freiburg have a strong starting netminder in Matthias Nemec and he has been praised for some miraculous saves that have kept some fantastic efforts out of the Freiburg goal.
Nikolas Linsenmaier and Sergei Stas have both already found the net and will be the ones to watch when the Wolves attack.
Meanwhile Stars fans should be keeping their eyes on every Dundee player, as each is looking improved or to be playing in good form. Some names that will surely play big roles in the season ahead are forwards, François Bouchard, Matt Marquardt, Lukas Lundvald and Jordan Cownie.
The Dundee defensive unit has been upgraded with a bit more size and with a lot more players who are comfortable on the puck and very mobile.
Pontus Sjögren will have his first chance to show the fans exactly the calibre of goalie he is and why he comes so highly rated.
Stars defenceman and ex-DEL2 player, Shawn Boutin shared his experience of playing with Dresdner Eislöwen last year and what challenge they can pose to Stars.
He said: “They play a European style of hockey, meaning it is not as physical as this league here, it is a fast-paced league.
“You have more time with the puck as you don’t get hit as much, but everything happens fast, like quick plays and breaks.
“In that league, every team can beat everybody, a bit like in this league too.”
“They will be fast and they will make quick plays, I think they have a different team from last year but they have good players up front and they have a good goalie.
“I am expecting a tight game against Freiburg.”
Reflecting on the first week of training, Shawn added: “The first week of training camp has been great, everybody is excited to be on the ice, guys are sharp and we have good pace.
“I am really excited to get started, I have been skating for four days now and everybody is skating hard and practicing hard.”
Tonight’s game faces-off at 7:00pm with tickets still available online and from the DIA box office.