BY KRIS SMITH
The Kitmart Dundee Stars face their first test of the regular season against the Manchester Storm tonight with Stars keen to build on their recent success.
Dundee claimed back-to-back wins against their biggest rivals, Fife Flyers last weekend in the Challenge Cup but now play their first league fixture, when they host Ryan Finnerty’s Storm.
The Altrincham side come to Dundee with just one win in three games, they lost twice to the Nottingham Panthers, 2-1 on the road and 4-1 in Manchester. However, in their last game they picked up the extra point in Sheffield against the Steelers after Rob Linsmayer’s winning penalty shot gave them their first victory by a score of 3 to 2.
Ex-Stars defencemen, Fèlix-Antoine Poulin and Riley Stadel have joined the Storm for this season, although Poulin could not ice after missing last Saturday’s game with an injury. Mike Hammond is yet to play and a competitive game and is unlikely to feature on Sunday.
Stars started their playoff comeback with a 5-3 win against the Storm last December as they went on a hot streak and won five home games in a row. After an intense three-way battle between Stars, Braehead Clan and Coventry Blaze, Dundee were knocked out of the race with just two weeks left of the regular season. The two sides met four times in last year’s campaign with them sharing two wins each.
Manchester claimed the first tie on home ice with a 4-3 shootout win before Stars claimed the points in Tayside after a 5-4 win on penalty shots. Brian Hart scored one goal and assisted on another in that game, while Johan Andersson set-up two of the other Dundee goals. Stars then won their second home game against Manchester 5-3 before being shutout 4-0 on the road.
François Bouchard leads the Stars in points with 2 goals and 4 assists, he is followed by Matt Marquardt who has netted 3 times, including 2 powerplay goals. Jordan Cownie also sits on three points with 2 goals and 1 assist, while Shawn Boutin is the highest scoring defenceman for Dundee with 3 assists.
Luke Moffatt (1+3) is the Storm’s leading goal scorer with 4 points, while Dane Byers (1+2) and Ciaran Long (2+1) have each notched up 3 points from 4 games.
Looking ahead to their only fixture of the weekend, Bouchard added: “It is going to be a good game on Sunday, I think Sunday is going to be a good challenge against Manchester and that is the first game of the season.
“So obviously we want to do good and it is a home game in front of our fans, hopefully we can start with the win and go on.”
With a few games under their belts, he explained how the team is gelling, he said: “There is a lot of knew faces, it is a new team for everybody and we are getting to know each other a little better week after week.
“I like what I am seeing so far, we have a good mix of everything, like our goaltender is solid, our d-core is solid and I think up front, even though we have not scored a lot of goals lately, it is just a matter of time.”
When asked what will be key to beating Manchester, Bouchard replied: “We need to keep playing like we did in the Challenge Cup, we are a fast team, who shoot the puck well and score some goals.
“We have to just keep doing what we are doing and what we have been doing in practice all week.
“Try to stay in the systems, be simple and play simple especially at the start of the game, I think if we do that we will be okay.”
Tonight’s game faces-off at 5pm with tickets available online and from the box office.