By Kris Smith
The Stars saw their season halted on December 15th as they arrived in Cardiff ahead of a Challenge Cup Quarter-Final Second Leg tie, but the game was postponed until January after Dundee were placed into the Elite League’s COVID Protocol.
The Tayside team have had a few days of on-ice training ahead of their trip to Northern Ireland and are aiming to resume the fine form they had found earlier this month.
Heading into their second leg match, the Stars had won six of their last seven games and scored a total of 22 goals.
Currently leading the Stars scoring charts are forwards, Charlie Combs, and Philippe Sanche with 10 goals each this season and Gabriel Desjardins has the most assists, with 17 in 26 games.
There are also four Dundee players on point-streaks with Desjardins leading the lot with his six points in three matches, while Spencer Dorowicz has five in five, Sebastian Bengtsson five in three and Toms Rutkis with three in two.
Meanwhile, Adam Keefe’s men made their return to the ice on Boxing Day and were 5-1 winners against Glasgow Clan at home, before they went on the road to play Guildford Flames on Wednesday.
Belfast were 3-1 victors in Surrey, thanks to goals from JJ Piccinich and Ben Lake and that extended their winning run to six games, with their last defeat coming against Dundee.
On their last visit, the Stars came away from the SSE Arena with two points and a 3-2 win on November 28th, as they led the Giants all night via goals from Combs, Connor Sills and Drydn Dow.
The positive news for Dundee is that the short break has given players a chance to heal up some of the injuries the team was being plagued by earlier in the season.
The only two players set to not make the ferry across to Belfast are defenseman Kris Inglis, as the 23-year-old recovers from his long-term leg injury and fellow Dundonian, Craig Garrigan.
Meanwhile, the Giants were missing three players from their line-up on Wednesday night in Guildford and could be without Mark Garside, Darcy Murphy, Adam Robinson.
Previewing his side’s last game of 2021, Stars Head Coach, Omar Pacha said: “The guys were off for 10 days, but we have had some good practices over the last couple of days and it is our first game back since coming out of COVID Protocol.
“Looking at the whole situation, we want to make sure we are still in our good habits of playing well defensively, which we did before going on this break.
“Also, we expect our execution not to be at our best, but hopefully we can get into the game quite early and build some momentum.”
Whilst his side come into the game fresh, the Stars boss is still wary of a Giants side that have been back to normal for a bit longer.
Pacha added: “I mean it does not really matter if we are fresh because in this circumstance, Belfast have played and practiced for a long while, so the execution from them might be in better shape.
“We have been off for 10 days, with only a few practices and have a long day of travel ahead but I am expecting a hard game, it is always a hard game every time we go Belfast.
“They are a good team and are doing really well lately but we are both two of the top form teams with us winning six of our last seven games and them their last six.
“So, we just have to go in with the same approach we did last time, and we know it is going to be a hard gritty game and if it is like that, then I like our chances.”
Face-off for tonight’s Hogmanay clash in Belfast is at 4pm.