By Kris Smith
The Kitmart Dundee Stars begin their three-game weekend with a trip to Belfast, as they search for their first win against the Giants this season.
Stars come into the game off the back of their second straight shootout loss. Prior to the narrow defeats to Sheffield on Wednesday and Manchester last Sunday, Dundee had beaten Fife Flyers in a shootout on home ice after winning in Kirkcaldy the previous night. Meanwhile the Northern Irish side are on a three-game losing streak after back-to-back losses to the Flyers and a single loss to Nottingham Panthers.
The two teams have met twice this season in the Challenge Cup and Belfast claimed both ties with score lines of 4-2 and 4-1. Fabrizio Ricci, Matt Marquardt and François Bouchard netted the Stars goals against the Giants.
Both Lukas Lundvald and Matt Bissonnette have missed Dundee’s last two games through injury, but there is hope for the pair to make an appearance over the weekend. Matt Towe is yet to play a game for the Giants, while Jonathan Boxhill missed their last match.
Winger, Patrick Dwyer is the one to watch for Belfast with 11 (2+9) points in from seven league and cup games. Bouchard leads the Stars in scoring with seven (2+5) points and has recorded a point in seven of his first nine games for Dundee.
Belfast have split their goaltending duties between Tyler Beskorowany and Dundee-born Stephen Murphy. Meanwhile, Pontus Sjögren has impressed in his first season abroad. The Swede has played six games and holds a 1.85 goals against average, he also has a .921 save percentage after facing 164 shots.
Stars head coach, Omar Pacha, was proud of the way his team played in Sheffield and believes his side are capable of beating anyone.
He said: “We outplayed them, we out-chanced them and we just could not score in the end, but we got a point on the road.
“Any time you get a point on the road and in any building, you look at it as a positive, but obviously we wanted to have the two points against Sheffield.”
The lack of killer instinct is what let Dundee down, according to Pacha, he added: “I thought we dominated the game and outplayed them, we just could not get that killer instinct goal and we missed a lot of chances again.
“Overall the performance was good, we played a really good road game and hit a few posts, we had way more chances than they did, we just could not get that killer goal for the third.”
Looking ahead to the first Belfast fixture, he said: “Anytime you play against those big teams, you want to go in there and have a good performance like we had in Sheffield.
“Throughout the season we have played well on the road, even when we went to Belfast.
“We had a good game with Sheep (Craig Holland) in and hopefully we get a good performance by the guys again.
“Hopefully we can start scoring a few more goals, but the way the guys are playing I am confident we can beat anybody.”
Defenceman, Drydn Dow has gotten off to a good start in Dundee and heading into their next match against Belfast, he said: “Belfast is a really strong team and have a lot of talent throughout their line-up, they are also a very structured and patient team that does not make a lot of mistakes.
“To beat a team like Belfast you need to play a complete 60 minutes, they are a team that can take advantage of your mistakes.
“So, by limiting those you will have your best chance to win, it is also important that we are able to capitalise on our chances when we get the opportunities.”
Dow has found the net twice so far this season and commenting on his style of play, he said: “For me I have always been a more offensive d-man.
“I try and utilise my strengths and as I am not the biggest or most physical d-man, I know that I need to use my skating instead to join the rush and be a more affective player for the team.”
Face-off is at 7pm in the SSE Arena.