By Kris Smith
The two River Tay Rivals will clash in back-to-back Challenge Cup Group A fixtures this weekend, with both sides in a desperate need of points to boost their hopes of progressing to the Quarter-Final.
The Stars currently sit bottom of Group A after losing their opening two games against the current cup and treble holders, Belfast Giants, meanwhile the Flyers have two points on the board after taking a home win over Glasgow Clan.
Fife have already played three of their six games, suffering defeats to Glasgow and Belfast, now their last chance to win on home ice comes against Dundee tonight.
The last time the two teams met in Kirkcaldy was in the first weekend of preseason hockey back at the start of September and the Stars would take a 3-2 overtime victory after going 2-0 ahead early.
Johnny Walker and James Phelan had given Dundee the lead before Ex-Star-turned-Flyer, Johan Eriksson and Max Humitz made it a level game.
Jake Elmer would bag the overtime winner for the Stars but Tom Coolen’s men responded by shutting out Dundee on their own ice, 24 hours later in a 4-0 win.
After two feisty friendlies, the animosity will likely still be high between the bitter rivals and Marc LeFebvre’s side roll in off the back of a 3-2 shootout victory over Manchester Storm in their last outing, whist Fife were 6-4 winners on the road against Coventry Blaze.
Looking ahead to a pair of must-win games if his side are to get out of the group stage, Stars Head Coach, Marc LeFebvre said: “It is a playoff-like competition right now, so we need to get some points on the board now if we want to progress to the next round.
“We know what their building is like, we got some experience of it in the friendlies last month, so it is a big rivalry game and not just for the fans, but also in terms of us getting some points on the board in the cup.
“I think a lot of our guys know their line-up pretty well and that arena is a different animal compared to other ones, but it is a big rivalry game for us, so we will just go in there and focus on ourselves.”
After picking up their first competitive win of the season last weekend, LeFebvre added: “We have to keep moving forward and playing a full 60-minute game because we have not been doing that yet.
“We still have a lot more to give and it was great to get that first victory of the season last weekend but we need to continue that on into this weekend.”
Forward, James Phelan found the net in Sunday’s win over Manchester and on his last trip to the Fife Ice Arena and discussing tonight’s game, he said: “The guys are feeling good, we have had a good week of practice under us and we are ready to go.
“We know what to expect going there now with the crowd and everything else, the crowd gets really rowdy so it will be a fun game and we are excited for it.”
With Dundee’s four remaining cup games all against their Scottish rivals, winning them all will be crucial and the Canadian added: “Those are all big games for us and we want to have the same approach going into all of them because we want to win every one of them.
“These are big games this weekend and they can help us progress to the next round.”
With Sunday’s shootout win still having a positive effect on the team, the Stars Phelan added: “It feels good to start the week after a win and to have that positive energy around the room.
“The guys are happy to have that off their backs and now we want to take that momentum into this weekend.”
Face-off for tonight’s game in Kirkcaldy is at 7:15pm.
All images: Flyers Images.