By Kris Smith
The Kitmart Dundee Stars head south to face Manchester Storm on Wednesday and they aim to add to the recent woes of the Storm and build on their derby victory from Sunday.
Dundee come into the mid-week match off the back of a hugely uplifting 4-1 win over Fife Flyers. Stars completed a perfect record of four home wins out of four against their bitter rivals.
Despite going down 1-0 in the opening minutes, Drydn Dow, Oliver Paczkowski, Jordan Cownie and Brian Hart all found the net to give the home team an important 4-1 win.
Just as Dundee ended a five-game losing streak, the Guildford Flames handed Ryan Finnerty’s Strom side their fifth consecutive defeat as the Altrincham club lost 1-0 in Surrey and also lost their Patton Conference Champions status to the Flames.
With only four home games remaining for Stars and 13 matches left in the regular season, Omar Pacha takes his team on the road for the next two weeks. Wednesday’s trip to Manchester is followed by a short-hop across to Kirkcaldy on Saturday before returning to the Storm Shelter seven days later.
However, Manchester have three games to play in the rest of this week, after hosting Dundee, they travel south to face Milton Keynes Lightning on Saturday before returning home to play the Sheffield Steelers on Sunday.
The Stars are currently occupying the eighth and last playoff spot and sit three points ahead of the Storm, who are in 10th and have played one game more than Dundee. Manchester are only 12 points off of fourth place but if they fail to win any points this week, there hopes of making the playoffs will be bleak.
Last time the Stars and Storm met was just less than a month ago and Dundee dominated the game on home ice. Rookie, Craig Garrigan gave Stars the lead in the first period before Brian Hart doubled their advantage in the second. Dane Byers kicked off the third with a crucial goal for the visitors but Fabrizio Ricci’s strike ended Manchester’s hopes of a late equaliser.
The 3-1 win was Omar Pacha’s first over his previous employers this season. Pacha’s men lost 2-1 after a shootout, the first time the Strom travelled to Tayside with Dow netting Dundee’s only goal and on their first trip to Altrincham, they lost 4-3 after overtime.
Lukas Lundvald, Matt Marquardt and Cownie scored a goal each in the middle period to tie the score at 3-3 after a disappointing opening session left the Stars a trio of goals down. Former Star, Riley Stadel netted the game-winning-goal in overtime to bag his hat-trick on the night and earlier in the game, there had also been a boiling over of tensions between Dow and Dylan Anderson as the pair dropped the gloves.
Both teams have been missing players in recent games and Dundee’s injury woes forced head coach Pacha to lace-up his skates for a second season in a row. François Bouchard has been ruled out for the rest of the season but will remain on as part of Pacha’s staff.
Defenders, Mike Sullivan and Petr Chaloupka both have facial injuries that are side-lining them for a number of weeks but Chaloupka could return before the end of the month.
Meanwhile, suspensions are the cause of Finnerty’s headache as Linden Springer was banned for five matches, Harrison Ruopp was suspended for three and Dane Byers received a single match ban all from incidents in Fife two weeks ago.
Byers is the only one who has completed his suspension so far but the other two will be unavailable for selection against Dundee. Last Sunday the Storm were also missing Ashley Smith, Barry Sparkes, Duncan Spiers, Lee Bonner and Evan Richardson. Also, latest additions Sam Zajac and Liam Morris who joined the club on Valentine’s Day did not ice.
Stars centreman, Jordan Cownie believes that a few days off between their 5-1 loss to Glasgow Clan and 4-1 win over Fife, allowed them to take a fresh approach despite their losing streak.
He said: “Going five in a row, not really getting the bounces and getting a win was hard but it was good to get a good week of practice under us and it showed on Sunday.
“We were fresh and playing with fresh minds, which obviously led to a good result which is huge going into Wednesday.”
Stars have faced a small backlog games but they have been spread across a few days and the team has coped with it according to Cownie.
“We have been playing a lot of games recently, we are 47 into the year, so to get one then a couple days later another one then a couple days later another, it will be good to kind of reset and refresh going into the next game,” he added.
The Dundonian knows it will be tough in Manchester but is confident his coach will have the right game plan to win two valuable points.
Jordan said: “I think going down there is always a tough game in their little barn but I am sure Pach will have a game plan and if we stick to the plan, we will be fine.”
Face-off is at 7:30pm in the Storm Shelter on Wednesday.