By Kris Smith
The Kitmart Dundee Stars travel to the West Midlands in search of a sixth straight win as they take on the Coventry Blaze on Sunday.
Dundee were victorious for a fifth consecutive game as they skated to a 3-1 victory over Manchester Storm at the DIA last night. Craig Garrigan scored his third professional goal to give Dundee the lead in the first period.
Brian Hart doubled the Stars lead in the middle stanza with a powerplay goal before they were pegged back in the final session. Another powerplay strike came late in the game as Fabrizio Ricci sealed the win and two points for the Taysiders.
New signing Oliver Paczkowski picked up his first assist for Dundee on Craig Garrigan’s goal, in what was a successful debut.
The Blaze will be aiming to bounce back after 4-3 loss to Guildford Flames in Surrey on Saturday. Coventry led 1-0 thanks to Kevin Morris before falling behind 2-1 before the end of the first period. They went into the final break 3-2 behind after Ben Lake had drawn them level at 2-2.
A shorthanded goal from Justin Hache was only a consolation as they could not match Guildford’s four-goals. Danny Stewart’s team remain in 10th position, now four points behind sixth-placed Dundee but the English club have three games in hand.
In the previous meetings this season, Dundee have won the last two games after being beaten in the Skydome in the first matchup of the campaign.
François Bouchard and Matt Marquardt both found the net in November against the Blaze but a Tim Crowder brace and goals from Morris, Hache and Lake gave the home side a 5-2 victory.
Coventry were not as fortunate in Scotland as they lost out 4-2. Lake and Luke Ferrara were on target for the visitors but Bouchard, Mike Sullivan (2) and Charles Corcoran made the difference for Stars.
In their most recent tie, Dundee came to the Skydome and took both points after netting five times. Lukas Lundvald, Corcoran, Matt Bissonnette, Ricci and Bouchard provided the goals for Omar Pacha’s men, while Ross Venus and Alex Nikiforuk stopped Pontus Sjögren earning a shutout.
While Bouchard has netted in every game against the Blaze this season, Shawn Boutin has four assists on goals against his former club. Bouchard, who will miss tonight’s game due to injury, has five points against Coventry this season, giving Boutin a chance to equal or beat that statistic.
Ben Lake is the leading point scorer for Stewart’s side with 22 goals and 28 helpers in 37 appearances. Coventry have had four different goalkeepers on their books so far this season. They originally re-signed Kevin Nastiuk after his impressive performances last season but he was unable to return on medical grounds, prompting Stewart to sign Miika Wiikman.
When the former Nottingham and Milton Keynes Netminder picked up an injury early in the season, Miroslav Kopriva was brought in to cover his duties. Kopriva was released when Wiikman returned to fitness but another injury ended his year and Kopriva returned to the Blaze. However, Stewart made the decision to release the Czech keeper and bring in former NHLer Matt Hackett.
Stars forward, Jordan Kelsall remains confident ahead of the trip to Coventry in light of the teams recent performances.
He said: “We beat Guildford, so there is no reason why we can’t do that again.
“It is another huge game against a team near us in the table, so it almost like a four-point swing.
“I think we just have to stick to our system and I know when we played them at home, I wasn’t playing that game but we played a really nice systematic game and wore them down.
“We didn’t give them too many chances and when we got ours, we punished them, so I think that will be the plan again.
“We have shown we can beat every team, there is no reason why we shouldn’t finish fifth or sixth, rather than just scrape eighth.
“It is a very realistic goal, finishing halfway up the pack.
“We are ready to get going and get those points.”
Tonight’s game will face-off at 5:15pm in the Skydome Arena.