By Kris Smith
The second placed Steelers chose to play Dundee at home firstleg as they look to make their home ice advantage count, but the last time the two sides met down south, Sheffield were beaten in a shootout.
Dundee’s Charlie Combs, Connor Sills (2) and Gabriel Desjardins all found the net that night to keep them level after Martin Latal, Evan Mosey and Robert Dowd (2) had scored for the Steelers, but Sebastian Bengtsson would bag the shootout winner for the Stars.
The two teams then met again 24 hours later in Dundee, where the Tayside team claimed another victory, with a 2-1 win in overtime.
This time it was Dillon Lawrence and Sheffield’s Brandon Whistle, who had the two sides tied after 60 minutes, before Kalvis Ozols blasted home the winner in extra time.
Now, Omar Pacha’s Stars come into the post-season off the back of two wins out of three last weekend, while Aaron Fox’s men have lost their last four games on the bounce, with their last victory coming back on April 6th.
Leading Dundee’s attack are Combs (65 points – 30G, 35A) and Bengtsson (60 points – 28G, 32A), who finished as the third and fifth top point scorers across the entire league, during the regular season.
Meanwhile, Dowd is Sheffield’s leader for offensive output with 29 goals and 25 points through 54 games, but it is the Stars American forward, Combs who has the most shots taken (398) and shots on target (252) in the entire league.
Heading into the first leg, the Stars have a couple injury concerns after forward, Quinn O’Brien missed last weekend’s three games with an upper body injury, but winger, Craig Garrigan has returned to one-ice practice after sustaining a lower body injury two week ago.
Speaking about his gameplan and expectations for the first leg, Stars Head Coach, Pacha said: “It is going to be a massive game and we are thankful that we can travel down a day before.
“We have always played well in Sheffield and they have always been tight games, so I think the guys are excited and they like playing in Sheffield, with atmosphere and the big crowd, so it will be a big first leg.”
He continued: “We have to play to our strengths, play well defensively and stick to our structure, while also staying disciplined and out of the box.
“Even though it is only the first leg, you still want to go out and win that game and that mindset does not have to change but at the same time, you have to be aware of everything else going on – whether it be the clock or the score.”
Dundee Stars goaltender, Brython Preece backstopped the team to their two previous wins against the Steelers in March and reflecting on what made them successful back then, the Welshman said: “We knew it would be a tough weekend but we just wanted to compete hard and play for the full 120 minutes.
“Once we got those few early goals, it was easier to just build more momentum for the rest of the weekend.”
He continued: “Now this weekend, we just have to play a clean d-zone and that has been very good for the last few months now.
“We put a lot of work into that and now we just have to keep building on that into the weekend and make sure we stick to Pach’s gameplan.”
Face-off times for the two Quarter-Final ties are at 7pm in Sheffield tonight and 5pm in Dundee tomorrow.