By Kris Smith
Dundee have their first of three home double headers this season when Nottingham Panthers and Sheffield Steelers visit the Dundee Ice Arena this weekend.
Both teams will be hoping to continue starving the Stars of league points as Omar Pacha’s men search for their first win in the league phase but all of the Stars’ focus is on Saturday’s game.
Last weekend, Dundee came up short in two close games.
Their poor discipline cost them in Manchester as they lost three powerplay goals to the Storm and despite pulling one back through Elgin Pearce, they failed to muster up a comeback in the final period.
On Sunday, they were edged out by their biggest rivals, Fife Flyers at home in front of a large crowd.
The game was scoreless for 40 minutes before Chase Schaber capitalised on the game’s only major mistake to put the visitors ahead.
An empty net goal cemented the loss for Dundee as they took a big gamble in the final minutes.
Now the Panthers come to the City of Discovery with the aim of asserting their dominance early in the season.
They defeated Guildford Flames in their only game of last weekend, as they came from 1-0 behind to win 3-1.
Brett Perlini, Sam Herr, William Quist and Brian Connelly are all tied as top point scorers for Nottingham with four points each.
The Panthers were missing Guillaume Lepine and back-up goaltender, Sam Gospel from their line-up against Guildford, along with the suspended Brett Bulmer.
Bulmer will be unavailable for Saturday’s game in Dundee as he completes his two-game ban for kneeing.
The Stars have no injury or fitness concerns heading into the weekend and that will be a major positive for Stars head coach, Omar Pacha.
Looking ahead to a challenging weekend, the Stars boss said: “Nottingham and Sheffield are going to be two tough challenges and you saw there was a lot of personnel changes on both teams but they both added skill and speed and a lot of tenacity.
“Nottingham, I think will be a great test because they have a really good defensive core and Sheffield on paper have the best offense in the league, so it’s two great challenges and I’m really looking forward to seeing how we react to them.
“They have both historically been up there in the standings and are regarded as big clubs, so for us it’s a huge challenge to see how this group reacts to them and how they play against big clubs.
“Maybe the players who were here last year, might take a bit of confidence from the fact that we beat both of these clubs last season and that they know it’s possible, its important to know that every game we can win.”
Pacha has been preparing his players all week but has been focusing on how his own side play rather than how Nottingham play.
He added: “We did a lot of work on our offence and our transitioning, I thought for the most part last weekend we were a bit too spread out.
“Now we have worked a lot on transition, going up the ice all together, attacking with speed and a lot of our players are really good skaters, so we want to use that to our advantage.
“The boys have practiced hard all week, we went back through a few things and obviously it’s a process but we hope these things will translate into our game.”
After losing their first and only league game to date, the Canadian coach stressed the importance of making a good start early in the new campaign.
Omar said: “You always want to have a good start to the year and for us it is no different to any other team.
“We want to make sure we are able to get some results nice and early, especially with the strength of the league and how competitive it is.
“We just have to be realistic and play to the best of our abilities and hopefully that will translate into victories.”
Dundee defenseman, Jagger Dirk is playing in his debut season in the EIHL but he already knows the prestige of the Panthers.
He said: “They are a very good team and they have some speed and skill, so you have to take away their time and space.
“They are not going to give us anything, so we have to be ready to outwork them on each and every shift and when we do get out opportunities to score, we need to take advantage of them.”
Despite the two defeats, the Canadian says the team have used this week to work on some areas of weakness in their game and are feeling positive ahead of Saturday’s tie.
Dirk added: “We are feeling good, last weekend was disappointing but we used this week of practice to work on some of the things that needed to be improved on and we are confident in ourselves moving into the weekend.
“Obviously, we need to score some goals but defensively I thought we played pretty well last week.
“We only gave up one five-on-five goal, that being said we need to stay out the box but when we have to kill a penalty then we have to actually kill it.
“Also, when we get our chances on the powerplay and five-on-five, we need to capitalise on them.
“I thought a couple of times we had ‘Grade A’ scoring chances but give credit to the goalies, they made some nice saves but at the end of the day you are not going to win many games with just one goal.”
Face-off for Saturday’s game is 7pm and Sunday’s match will start at 5pm. Tickets are still available online and from the box office, buy them HERE.