By Kris Smith
The Kitmart Dundee Stars are aiming to make it five straight wins and claim their first win of the season over Manchester Storm this Saturday.
Ryan Finnerty’s Storm have won both meetings this campaign and in the first match, Rob Linsmayer’s opener was cancelled out by Drydn Dow’s goal before Luke Moffatt stole the points with the game winning shootout goal.
It was another close encounter when Dundee travelled to Altrincham but they again lost outside of regulation time. Former Star, Riley Stadel netted a brace and Chris Auger’s single goal had given Manchester a 3-0 lead after the first 20 minutes.
However, Omar Pacha’s side responded through Lukas Lundvald, Matt Marquardt and Jordan Cownie to tie the game before the second break. A scoreless third stanza sent the game into overtime and Stadel bagged his hat-trick to win the extra point for Storm again.
After Craig Garrigan’s remarkable pair of goals against Nottingham, only three players remain without a goal for Dundee this season. Jordan Kelsall, Kris Inglis and Petr Chaloupka have yet to find the net but each have a number of assists this year.
Dundee’s top scorer François Bouchard is currently injured but the Canadian has netted on 14 occasions and assisted 21 times in 39 games.
Stars have a healthy trio of Brian Hart, Lukas Lundvald and Charles Corcoran tied on 29 points and they will be keen to catch Bouchard as the team aims to progress with their playoff push.
Manchester are led by Englishman, Mike Hammond he has racked-up 50 points after icing in just 33 games.
On Thursday morning, Dundee announced the signing of Oliver Paczkowski as injury cover for Bouchard, Matt Bissonnette and captain, Johan Andersson, who will all miss this weekend’s games against Manchester and Coventry.
The Canadian born Pole has not iced this season but he did play for Cracovia Krakow for the last three seasons. During his time with Krakow, he made six Champions Hockey League appearance and also won back-to-back Polish league titles in 2015/16 and 2016/17.
The 6’2 centreman from Montréal, Quebec holds a dual nationality passport and will make his debut at the DIA on Saturday against Manchester.
Since the two teams last met in October, Chance Baird has joined the ranks of the Storm and English netminder Declan Ryan left to take an opportunity outside of hockey. Forwards, Dylan Lawrence and Brendan Brooks also departed the Storm.
Another crucial weekend lies in store for Stars as they take on the eighth place Storm and Stars head coach, Pacha hopes his side can keep their winning streak going.
He said: “It is two huge games, they are teams right around us, so we challenged the guys a few weeks back to start our playoff push and since then we are 4-0 and it doesn’t change for this weekend.
“This weekend is as big any game during the season, every game is the most important game and it starts on Saturday especially with Manchester being so close in the standings.”
Stars currently sit in sixth spot, just one point ahead of Manchester and they have an average of over one point a game but will such a high average be enough to keep them in the playoff spots?
Omar added: “Who knows, it is tough to predict, especially this year with all the parity from every team, you even see it when you look at the winning percentage of every team.
“Everybody seems to be hovering around that 50 per cent or close to it.
“There are only two teams that are essentially over the 60 mark but you have teams like Nottingham and Fife that are not too far ahead.
“You just hope you keep winning hockey games because that will ultimately give you the best chance of getting to the playoffs, you can’t really look at other teams.
“It is important for us to keep our winning streak and beat teams that are surrounding us.”
The Canadian also discussed what will be key to clinching that first win of the season over his former employers.
Pacha said: “We got two points against Manchester, one on the road and one at home but unfortunately both were losses outside regulation.
“We have to make sure we use our speed against their d-men.
“They have solid goaltending, so we have to get pucks to the net with traffic and we have to play a systematic game that we have been played against Guildford and Nottingham last week.
“We just have to make sure we out work other teams, which we have done in the last four games.”
Dundee defenceman, Drydn Dow remains confident that Stars can continue their good form this weekend.
He said: “Doing well always gives you a boost of confidence and can lead to a snowball effect.
“When we are playing in our best form, we have the confidence that we can compete with every team in the league.
“They are good team and playing really well at the moment, so we will have to play a very disciplined game against them and play solid in our structure to have the best chance against them.”
With Stars current injury situation, Drydn also shared how Pacha has reinforced confidence in his players abilities.
He added: “Pach has just told us to continue to play to the best of our individual skill set.
“With guys out, you sometimes think you need to do extra to compensate but he has just made sure to remind us to play to our strengths and with that results will come.”
Saturday’s game will face-off at 7pm.