By Kris Smith
The Kitmart Dundee Stars have a chance climb into the final playoff spot when they host Coventry Blaze on Wednesday evening.
The Stars have won three out of the five meetings between the two teams this season and the Blaze have never won in any of the two previous games in Tayside this year.
Dundee have conceded 17 goals to Danny Stewart’s side in this campaign but have netted 19 times. Only a single point separates 10th place Stars and Coventry who sit in ninth.
Omar Pacha’s men come into the mid-week clash in good from after three solid displays on the road last weekend. Dundee defeated Glasgow Clan 5-1 in front of a sell out crowd at the Braehead Arena on Friday before letting a 2-1 lead slip the following night.
Tired legs were the reason Stars lost 3-2 against Guildford Flames, as they conceded twice in the last ten minutes. However, they had already played 110 minutes of hockey in the 24 hours prior.
Stars third game in three nights was a huge success as they stole their second win in Nottingham this year. An early lead for Dundee was cancelled out in the third period but Matt Bissonnette nicked the extra point, 16 seconds into overtime.
The Blaze also played three games last weekend and after losing twice in Belfast to the Giants, they responded with a 4-1 win over Fife Flyers. Ben Lake, Dillon Lawrence, Nicolai Bryhnisveen and Shawn Pauly each netted a goal in the home win.
Dundee’s top point scorer is Charles Corcoran with 47 points, the American has played in all 56 Elite League games and scored 14 goals, while assisting on 33. Corcoran has six points against Coventry, netting four goals and has only 10 penalty minutes, compared to the Blaze’s top scorer, Lake with 103.
However, Lake has amassed 70 points this season, scoring 31 goals and creating 39 more. Meanwhile, Dundee defender and former Blaze blueliner, Shawn Boutin has seven assists against his former club this season.
The Stars still have no injury concerns, with the exception of the indefinitely injured François Bouchard, but the Blaze did not ice Oliver Lord, Matthew Maurice, Jake Hansen, Justin Hache, Joshua Crane and Graham Laverick in their last match.
Stars head coach, Omar Pacha gave his thoughts ahead of Wednesday’s massive clash with fellow playoff push rivals, Coventry and he said: “It is a season defining game, we put ourselves in a great position there to make this game meaningful, especially after the disastrous calls last week.
“Now we have put ourselves almost back to square one, so it is a great opportunity for us to get back in the mix of things and push for that playoff spot.”
Reflecting on last weekend’s games and collecting four points, the Canadian added: “I loved how my d-core competed, I loved my goaltending and I thought offensively we created chances, even though we didn’t score many goals on Saturday and Sunday.
“At this point of the year, I am proud of the three games we played and Saturday was probably our best overall but we found a way to win on Friday with a great start and we did it again on Sunday and we have put ourselves in a great position.”
With the focus now on the next game against the Blaze, Pacha knows their opponents are “hungry” but with good preparation and continuing their strong form, he remains confident.
Omar said: “I think if we play like we did over the course of the weekend and we create more and more chances we will be fine.
“We had success against them this year but that doesn’t take away from them, I think they are a different team from a month ago and they are hungry as well because they are competing for the same positioning. So, we have to make sure we are ready as ever and we will prepare as much as we can.”
Dundee defenceman, Kris Inglis, is confident that the good work from the weekend can carry over into the pivotal match of the season.
He said: “Last weekend was huge for our playoff push.
“Three road games in three days is never easy, especially when every team we played are in their own battles for league placement.
“Four points out of six was massive for us and it’s given us all a great push for Wednesday.
“The game against Coventry has potential to be a four-point game for both teams who are in the hunt to make playoffs.
“Wednesday will be a battle and the boys are all excited for the challenge.
“Confidence is high right now as we are playing some really good hockey and we will be coming into Wednesday refreshed with the momentum off the back of a great weekend.
“It doesn’t take much to get you pumped up for games like these, it’s why we play the game.
“Coventry are a good offensive team but I’m confident that if our defensive game continues to be solid then it’ll be a good night for us.”
Costly penalties have punished Stars as of late but Inglis believes that good discipline is just one of the things Dundee will need to win.
Kris added: “It’s important we play really disciplined and continue to stick to our systems the way we did last weekend.
“We have to dictate the game early and play our style of game.
“The team’s morale is high so if we play strong defence, I am confident that the offensive chances will come and we will take them.”
After conceding eight goals in two games in the first two weekends of March, Dundee’s defence halved that number across the three games last weekend and the Dundonian discussed how Pacha challenged his defensive unit to clean up at the back.
Inglis said: “A lot of goals nowadays are never exactly “pretty”.
“You can see now that even in the top leagues in the world that a lot of goals are generated from having good net presence and by winning net front battles.
“We have conceded some soft goals from right inside our slot this season so our d-core was challenged to be stronger in front of our own goal by picking up sticks and clearing rebounds.
“Last weekend we done this well and it allowed us to be successful because we know Pontus will make the first save as he has done all season.”
Wednesday’s game will face-off at 7:30pm with tickets available from the DIA box office or online.