The Kitmart Dundee Stars have a chance to play in their first ever Elite League Playoff Grand Final this weekend but first they must get past the reigning League and Challenge Cup Champions, Belfast Giants.

By Kris Smith

The Stars have returned to the Playoff Finals Weekend for only the second time in the club’s history and look to go one better than their semi-final elimination back in 2017, at the hands of Cardiff Devils.

However, they face the tough task of dispatching the tournament favourites and Adam Keefe’s men will certainly present a strong challenge for Dundee.

Although, throughout this season the two teams have engaged in battle 10 times, where the Stars have emerged victorious on three occasions, on both home and away ice.

Omar Pacha’s men are also not to be written off after ending Sheffield Steelers season last weekend with a shock result that saw them progress to the semis with a 5-3 aggregate win.

Meanwhile, Belfast took more than 125 minutes to slip past eighth seeds, Coventry Blaze as the Elite League top dogs were held to a 1-1 draw and then another tie of 2-2, before they would qualify after penalty shots.

The Giants are coming into the semi-finals unbeaten in their last 10 games, while the Stars have won four of their five most recent fixtures.

The Northern Irish club have also outscored Dundee 41-20 over the 10 matches, but overtime has been required in only two, where Dundee won on home ice and Belfast took a home victory after a shootout.

Leading the Stars offence against the Giants this season has been their usual suspects in Charlie Combs and Sebastian Bengtsson, who have both totalled seven points through nine appearances.

Whereas J,J. Piccinich and David Goodwin have each buried nine and seven goals, respectively past Dundee this season,

Adam Morrison has also been in the Stars goal for all three of their wins against the Teal Men, while Brython Preece’s lone start ended in defeat.

Looking ahead to a momentous weekend, Stars Head Coach, Pacha said: “We are going to have to skate hard against Belfast, they are a good skating team and they have depth everywhere across their line-up.

“For us, it is about staying disciplined and make sure we play hard against their top players such as the Goodwin-Piccinich and Conway top line, but overall it will come down to our ability to skate.

“We are one of the fastest teams in the league, if we can do that then I think we will put ourselves in a good position.”

He continued: “It is all about playing well defensively, you might get more chances from by getting the puck back in your own end and we need the puck on Saturday.

“That was a big thing for us before against Belfast and when we had that, we created chances and we were always pretty solid in those games.

“We are going to need everybody to step up, whether it be goaltenders, defenders or forwards, everybody is going to need to play their best game.”

Stars forward, Toms Rutkis then shared his thoughts on what it will take to topple the tournament favourites.

He said: “We just need to keep doing what we are doing right now.

“There is a great feeling in the room, we are feeling confident and we have shown that we can play against the best teams.

“So, now we just have to stick to our game and work as hard as we can.”

Toms then added: “It starts from working hard in our own end and giving the d-men easy options and then keeping our game simple and not over-complicating it and just playing the game the right way.”

Face-off for today’s semi-final in Nottingham is at 3pm and is live on Premier Sports.

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