By Kris Smith
The Kitmart Dundee Stars need to win against the reigning league champions if they are to stay in the playoff race.
Dundee host the Cardiff Devils on Sunday and will need to produce a performance of the season to defeat the Welsh side that are battling for their third straight league title.
Going into the weekend it is first versus 10th and 34 points separate Cardiff and Dundee. The Devils are four points clear whilst Stars are three points out of the playoff spots. After beating Glasgow Clan 4-2 on Wednesday night, Andrew Lord’s men are on a two-game winning streak. Mike Hedden, Stephen Dixon (2) and Drew Schiestel were all on the scoresheet for the Red Army.
Also, on Wednesday, Stars were on the wrong side of a 4-2 score line as they lost out to Coventry Blaze at home. Matt Bissonnette and Brian Hart provided the two goals for Dundee but they were a step behind the Blaze all night.
In the five previous meetings this season, Cardiff have won four. Dundee’s only win came in Cardiff as they defeated the Devils 3-2 after penalty shots, with Matt Marquardt scoring the winning penalty.
The last game ended in a 4-2 home victory for Cardiff and the other game in Wales saw the home team brush Stars aside by five goals to two. The last two games in Tayside seen the Devils emerge 6-3 winners and narrowly take the extra point after a 3-2 victory in overtime.
Cardiff’s top scorer Gleason Fournier has netted 22 goals and assisted 46 times in 56 league games. Dundee’s Drydn Dow, Lukas Lundvald and Charles Corcoran have each notched up five points against the Devils this season.
Luke Piggott, Jordan Lawday, Ben Scanlan, Toms Rutkis and James Livingston were all absent from the Cardiff line-up on Wednesday. Stars picked up no new injuries last week and will continue to ice a full team.
Stars head coach, Omar Pacha was disappointed with the last result but says his team need to repay the fans with a good performance in potentially their final home game.
He said: “It was disappointing, especially after the weekend we had but it is not finished yet and we are going to have a tough test on Sunday against Cardiff.
“We really need to get back to how we did last weekend, I think fatigue kicked in but overall it was a big disappointment.
“We need to pick ourselves up and there is a big opportunity on Sunday.
“Maybe we will be score-watching and just see what the other scores are.
“I think this team has proved they can beat anybody and it is up to us as a team to make stuff happen.
“I just think they have to play harder, not just for the standings but for the fans, so they kind of owe them one too.”
Stars centre, Brian Hart is confident that the team can quickly move on from Wednesday’s defeat and give the fans a good performance in the final home game of the season.
He said: “We’ve been a resilient team all year and I’ve always been proud of how hard guys on the team compete no matter the circumstances.
“I’m not worried about us moving forward and playing hard on Sunday.
“It’s been a year with a lot of ups and downs so it’d be great to finish the season on a high note.
“The fans and the team definitely deserve that.”
The American is upbeat about their chances against the champions and Brian added: “I’d say the boys are very excited to take Cardiff head on this weekend, a team with nothing to lose always has a chance.
“We have beaten every team in the league this season when we play a fast and disciplined game.”
Face-off on Sunday is at 5pm.