By Kris Smith
The Stars visit their arch rivals, Fife Flyers this evening for their first league fixture against the Kirkcaldy club after both teams won a game each in the Challenge Cup Group Stage and on both occasions, the victors were the road team.
A 3-0 win on their last trip to the Fife Ice Arena and their opening game of the season, gave Dundee the perfect start to the Challenge Cup with a clean sheet and goals from Philippe Sanche, Elijiah Barriga and Chris Gerrie.
However, the Flyers were not a team that looked like they would struggle to score goals and when they crossed the River Tay, Todd Dutiaume’s men put five past Dundee for a 5-2 win.
Janne Kivilahti (2), Chris Lawrence, Zack Phillips and Lucas Sandstrom fired home for the Flyers, while Ryan Verrier and Romans Semjonovs provided consolation goals for the Stars.
Across the two cup matches, Stars keeper, Anton Svensson saved 31 of 36 shots he faced, while his counter-part, Shane Owen saw 79 shots and stopped 74 of them.
The Flyers come into the game fresh from last weekend’s back-to-back victories as they beat Nottingham Panthers 3-1, down south, with goals from Christian Hausinger, Phillips and Shawn Cameron.
Fife then ended their Challenge Cup Group Stage campaign with a 7-2 win over Glasgow Clan at home, the following day and on that night, had scoring from; Brayden Sherbinin (2), Phillips (2), Cameron, Jonas Emmerdahl and Bari McKenzie.
Meanwhile, the Stars played at home last night and also beat the Panthers, as Jeff Mason’s side snapped their five-game losing run and collected their first regular season victory.
Despite falling a goal behind in the first period, Barriga tied the game just two minutes after Dundee had conceded and they would go 2-1 down in the second period, via a powerplay goal for the Panthers.
However, the Stars would capitalise on two crucial moments of poor discipline from Nottingham, as firstly Dougie Lagrone picked up two minor penalties for roughing up Sanche, off the play and that allowed Barriga to net twice more for his hat-trick and put Dundee 3-2 in front.
Then, as the third goal went in, Panthers keeper, Alex Dubeau was ejected from the game after physically abusing the referee, as he protested the Dundee goal, but that only gave the home side more powerplay time and that is when Sanche got in on the scoring to give the Stars the 4-2 win.
Dundee did have a full line-up but were playing without import duo, Colin Joe and Ben Sokay as they pair missed out through injury and will also be absent again in Kirkcaldy, and so will forwards, Ben Brown and Jonathan McBean as they fulfil their two-way contracts.
Reflecting on last night’s much needed win and how he takes his side forward into tonight’s derby match, Stars Head Coach, Mason said: “We just have to replicate the effort and the compete for a full 60-minutes.
“We have had good spells and last night we were able to carry it through and get a big push in the third when we needed it.
“Having more bodies back has allowed us to be a bit more aggressive, which certainly helped us, but it is still about sticking to the same systems and making sure we are managing the puck well, getting traffic to the front of the net and just being smart – but also making sure we bring that same compete level into tonight’s game.”
With Dundee only conceding two goals from 44 shots, the American coach was also pleased to see a better defensive performance from his players.
Jeff added: “I thought our d-zone was much better tonight but I would still like to see us limit the number of chances.
“Although, we took care of the house much better and were better at clearing second and third rebounds, as well as letting Anton see more pucks.
“As a whole, I thought our defence looked a lot better and there are still some things we can continue to work on and build off, but I would also like to see us end plays a bit quicker, which in-turn, will bring down the shot count – but it certainly was much improved from last week and we will keep building on that.”
Mason then discussed how his team must play against a Flyers side, who are finding their stride.
He said: “Fife are a team that are feeling quite good about themselves right now, they have had some really good results, but they are also a team that I feel we played really well against.
“We shut them out in the opening game during the cup phase, over in their building and then lost to them here at home.
“We made a number of key mistakes that turned that game, but statistically we dominated that game and you are not going to lose too many games with the statistical numbers that we had in that match.
“So, it is about putting that consistent effort in, finding a way to get in front and then sustaining that for the full 60-minutes and as I told the team, it is a big opportunity for us to put that rut behind us.”
Stars defenseman, Ryan Verrier also expressed the delight from inside the dressing room to get that first league win under the belt.
He said: “We have definitely been through a little stretch where we could not find the points or a win and it really helps once you get your first one, as it gets the monkey off the back.
“Now, we just have to keep that momentum going against Fife tonight and keep doing the right things that we did at home yesterday, like keep getting shots to the net and cleaning up our end, and then the same results will come.”
The American blueliner also stressed the importance of continuing their good defensive work in Kirkcaldy tonight, as that will in-turn create more scoring opportunities for themselves.
Ryan added: “Everything starts in the defensive zone and we have worked on that a lot this week in practice, we figured that out, tightened things up and cleared the front of the net.
“Once you get solid in the d-zone, then you can transition forward into the offensive zone, so it all starts in our own end.”
Face-off in Kirkcaldy is at 7:15pm tonight.