By Kris Smith
The Stars have turned the Dundee Ice Arena into their fortress over the last four weeks and have a chance to extend their unbeaten run in Tayside against a Panthers side that has just changed head coaches and is languishing sixth in the Elite League table.
Nottingham are expected to compete for silverware every season and currently sit tied on points with the Stars and Fife Flyers, who make up seventh and eighth with 14 points.
After winning this season’s first contest between the two sides 6-2 in Nottingham, the English side suffered a 4-2 loss on their last visit to Dundee.
David Levin had given the Panthers the lead in the first period, but the Stars quickly answered back through their leading point-scorer, Elijiah Barriga.
Jeremy Welsh then restored the visitors lead and they were still in front with 13 minutes left to play, however their poor discipline proved costly as Barriga netted twice in two minutes to give Dundee a 3-2 lead.
Nottingham goalie, Alex Dubeau had also been thrown out of the game for physical abuse of an official after throwing his stick and shoving the referee, which led to a five-match suspension.
Philippe Sanche would then add a fourth to confirm the Stars win and now the pair are set for a grudge match reunion and the Panthers are now being led by former Head Coach, Corey Neilson after Gary Graham was sacked two weeks ago.
Looking ahead to tonight’s home game, Stars Head Coach, Jeff Mason said: “I expect Nottingham to come out quite hard this weekend, they have a new coach and have made some changes.
“The new coach wants them to play with more aggression, be much more offensive and fast-paced, so I expect them to come out hard and after listening to his interview, he is going to work them hard this week, because he does not feel they are in the best of shape.
“Usually when teams make changes like that it gives them a bit of a spark, so I expect a good fight from them and that means we need to get off to a good start, because we are a much better team when we play from the front and are not chasing the game.
“That said, we need to commit to our structure and hopefully if we can come out fast and get a goal early, then it usually makes the game a bit easier.”
Dundee marksmen, Barriga also added: “The boys are feeling good after a few home wins, it is nice to get those under the belt and we are excited for the weekend.
“It is always better playing with the lead and that will be key this weekend as we have two hard games, so we are focusing on making a good start to the weekend at home tonight and then trying to carry that down to Cardiff.”
With the Stars finding more ways to score recently, the American shared what he believes will be the best way to get a few past the Panthers tonight, commenting: “I do not think it will be from first chances, it will be second and third.
“So, we just have to make sure we are hitting the net and getting pucks in deep as well as getting traffic in front of the goalie, if we can do that then we will be alright.”
Face-off for tonight’s home game is at 7pm and you can buy tickets HERE.
All images: Derek Black.