By Kris Smith
The Kitmart Dundee Stars head to Sheffield to take on the Steelers in their first game in five days.
This is the first time the clubs face each other this season and both teams are hungry to win points early in their league campaigns. Sheffield have played seven games and have won only seven points from a possible fourteen. Pressure is mounting on Paul Thompson after some shock results and heavy thumpings for the Steelmen.
League titleholders Cardiff put six past Sheffield in Yorkshire last Sunday and they conceded five to Guildford two weeks ago. Last week seen the departure of twins, Matt and Ryan Rupert after the brothers disappointing start to their first season in the UK. Free agent, Brendan Brooks was drafted in to fill the void after he had successful year with the Glasgow Clan posting 57 points from 54 games.
Josh Pitt and Evan McGrath lead the Yorkshire club in scoring with 9 points from 8 games, while Aaron Johnson is the highest scoring defenceman with 5 points, also from 8 games. François Bouchard still leads the Stars in points with 6 from 6 games, while Jordan Cownie trails him with 4 points.
Stars lost their only game of last weekend after losing 2-1 to Manchester Storm after penalty shots, where Drydn Down provided the only goal as Stars continue to be toothless in attack. Dundee have netted nineteen times in their eight games this season but head coach, Omar Pacha wants his side to be more prolific around the net.
Stars player-assistant coach and ex Sheffield player, Matt Marquardt expects a tough challenge against his former club.
He said: “Sheffield is always a premium club in this league, so it is definitely going to be a difficult test but every game in this league is going to be difficult.
“You have to approach it like any other game, we are worrying about ourselves and the way we go through with our game plan.
“Like I said, we know it is going to be a difficult test but it is one we are ready for.”
Winning points is never easy on the road and the 31-year old forward knows how tough it is to win in Yorkshire, Matt said: “It is definitely a tough building, I have been there as a Steeler and as a visitor, I know that from my time in Coventry, it is a tough building to go in there and try and get points.
“They are having some struggles of their own and they are looking to get over the hump so to speak.
“Much like our game against Manchester, we knew they were going to be hungry and it is going to be no different with Sheffield, it is going to be a tough test.”
With three years of experience in the Elite League, Marquardt is aware of how results can go any way at any time.
He said: “This league has gotten so great now that anybody can beat anybody on any night and it is a difficult league competition wise.
“We are just looking to play our game and be consistent, I think we have done excellent in our first games early this season and we have only played one Elite League game and were able to get a point from that.
“So that is what we are looking for, just to win every night just like every other team.
“It is going to be tough because teams that are struggling want to right the ship as soon as possible and we are no different.
“We are starting a big four in five here, it is going to be a tough week ahead.”
Rookie defenceman, Kris Inglis, continues to develop with the first team as his experience increases at the top level of British hockey.
He said: “With the opportunity I have been given this season I feel like it’s a responsibility of mine to try and improve as much as possible.
“I have not taken this season lightly as it is huge for not only myself but for the club also.
“Working hard in practice and in games is definitely paying off and hopefully I can continue to improve for the duration of this season as I gain more experience.”
According to the 20-year old defenceman, Stars are confident that they can get a good result on the road, Kris said: “A win no matter where you play always feels good, if we come away from Sheffield with the two points it will be great for the team morale.
“It will give us a good boost for the busy weekend ahead.”
“Our mentality as a team is that we can compete with anyone in this league.
“Sheffield is always a tough place to play but we are confident it will be a great game, we have had a good start to our season in the Challenge Cup stage and hopefully we can continue to build momentum and come away with a good result.”
Reflecting on the teams start to this season, Kris added: “I am very happy with how we have performed these first couple weeks, our performances in the Challenge Cup were really good and I know we still have more to give.
“It is crucial we get off to a good start in these first few league games to set the tone for our season.
“I am excited for what lies ahead and I am confident that as a team we will have great success.”
Face-off is at 7:30pm tonight in the Fly DSA Arena.