The Trade-Mart Dundee Stars boss, Jeff Mason has expressed his delight at the fight and competitiveness his team displayed over the weekend against Belfast Giants in their first preseason tests.

By Kris Smith

The Stars were beaten 9-4 in Northern Ireland on Saturday night but produced a challenging performance to make the current Elite League titleholders work hard for their win and did the same on Sunday evening.

With Dundee playing host, the Giants edged in front but were always being pegged back by the Tayside team throughout the match, before a late empty net goal sealed a 5-3 win for Adam Keefe’s men.

Reflecting on his side’s first two games, Mason said: “Overall and as I told the boys, I thought we got better after every period, which is what the intention was.

“It was always about building and getting more comfortable with each other and more comfortable with the systems.

“I thought on Saturday we did a lot of really good things, but obviously giving up nine goals and the way we gave up some of them had to be corrected and to the guys credit, they were much better on Sunday.

“They took away the middle of the ice and did not give up the ‘Grade-A’ chances the way they did on Saturday night, which is all part of the learning process and building to get those foundations in place, so that we can have a successful season.

 

Dundee’s Mac Howlett in a foot race for the loose puck. (Picture: Derek Black).

 

“I thought we battled really hard, we were still short a few bodies, while Belfast were rolling four lines and six defenders both nights, so they certainly had the man advantage when it came to that.

“However, I thought we competed extremely well through both games right until the end and I am really proud of their effort and they get a much-deserved day off, then back to work on Tuesday.”

The American coach noticed a huge improvement between the first and second match as his side became sharper on the ice and gelled better as a unit.

Jeff explained: “Offensively, we did a lot of really good things on Saturday and on Sunday, we really tightened it up defensively.

“So, it was all about building to get to where we want to get to, it was never going to come out of the blocks with a perfect performance.

“The thing about testing yourself against a team, that I expect to be contesting for every trophy this year, is that you see where you are at.

“Saturday night, I thought we had to raise our level of play and be better in certain areas and on Sunday, I thought we were better in those areas and bar a bounce or two in their favour, we were close to tying it up and taking them to overtime.

“So, like I said, it is all about building from here but I was really pleased with effort tonight and overall, on the weekend.”

Mason also picked out some the key players that stood out from the weekend performances and he said: “I really like Barriga’s line and how they competed.

 

Dundee Stars’ Elijiah Barriga hunts down the puck from Belfast’s Gabe Bast. (Picture: Derek Black).

 

“I also thought Sanche had a really good weekend and competed really hard and I expected that he would, but also how hard he competed defensively and he was good on the kill.

“Then, I thought Brython had a really good weekend and if you look back on the goals from Saturday night, there is not many goalies in the league that are going to stop four or five of those Grade-A’s, guys walking down the pipe, uncontested and just ripping shots.

“So, I thought he played well and he certainly gave us a chance to win tonight.

“There was a good effort from a lot of guys and some guys were maybe better last night and others maybe better tonight, but there was a lot to be pleased with.”

Mason, who made his debut as a Head Coach over the weekend also discussed the fighting spirit his players showed against Belfast.

He added: “Obviously in a preseason game, the result is not important but the competitiveness of the guys is.

“When you get into a game, you are clawing your way back and you can see them hunting after the victory, that is important and that is what you need and is the difference in all the games.

 

Brython Preece saves a peanlty shot from Belfast’s Sean Norris to keep the Stars only one goal behind. (Picture: Derek Black).

 

“So, that fighting spirit to pull something back and get close to give us a chance at the end is certainly something we can build.”

Finally, Jeff shared his first impressions of the Stars fans on a game night as busy Dundee Ice Arena erupted on a few occasions.

He said: “I was really impressed with the numbers that turned out on Sunday, they were starving to see some hockey and hopefully they enjoyed themselves.

“They were certainly loud and we definitely gave them a few opportunities to get out of their seats and cheer.

“Hopefully, we keep doing more for them and they keep coming back and everybody has a great night.”

 

The Stars return to the ice on Tuesday for the rest of their training camp and end the week with two more friendly matches, as they visit Glasgow Clan on Saturday, before welcoming Fife Flyers to the DIA and you can get your tickets NOW for Sunday’s home match.

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Trade-Mart Dundee Stars Team
37 Games
9 Wins
24 Losses
4 OT Losses
22 Points