By Kris Smith
Stars will take on last year’s Challenge Cup finalists, Sheffield Steelers this Wednesday Cup evening as they attempt to gain a home advantage over the Yorkshire club in the quarter-finals.
Dundee qualified in the wild card position after defeating Belfast, Fife and Edinburgh all at home but lost to each team on the road, to finish third in Group B. Meanwhile Steelers topped their group after winning all six group games against Braehead Clan, Manchester Storm and Nottingham Panthers. Clan were the only team to force Steelers into overtime but Braehead fell short and lost 3-2 in Glasgow.
Dundee had a mixed weekend as they were defeated 5-1 in Milton Keynes last Saturday, with Brian Hart netting Stars’ only goal. A quick start by Lightning seen them take a 4-0 lead inside the first period but a scoreless second period made it hard for Dundee to rescue any sort of result in the third. Omar Pacha’s men pulled one back to deny Miika Wiikman of a shutout before the home side scored into the empty net to secure their points. It was a feisty affair as both Justin Fox and Jimmy Jensen dropped the gloves in the third period after some physical shifts by Milton Keynes.
However, a strong performance against Manchester Storm on Sunday snapped a seven-game losing streak, goals from Gabriel Lévesque (x2), Jimmy Jensen, Riley Stadel and Adam Harding helped the Stars come out on top. Dundee took the lead twice but two powerplay goals for Ryan Finnerty’s side drew them level before taking the lead in the second period. A strong fightback from Dundee shutdown Manchester and they regained the lead before an empty net goal bagged two vital points.
Sheffield kicked-off their weekend with a trip to the Braehead Arena on Friday night, they took the lead through Mark Matheson before the home side tied it up. Ben O’Connor put the Yorkshire team back ahead before they increased their lead in the third period, Matt Marquardt and Mathieu Roy found the net to confirm a 4-1 win for Sheffield.
Sheffield then lost to Belfast Giants on Sunday evening, goals from Robert Dowd and Colton Fretter were not enough to win any points as the Irish side claimed a 3-2 victory at the Sheffield Arena
The previous results against Steelers have not been favourable for Dundee, after two 8-2 defeats at Ice Sheffield then 5-2 and 7-2 losses on home ice. The odds are heavily stacked against Stars but this would not be the first time the Tayside team has caused an upset this season, they also beat Steelers 4-0 at the DIA last year.
Forward Brady Ramsay left the club last week but Paul Thompson brought in Miika Franssila to add to their blueline as the English club continue to battle for the top spot in the league.
Taylor Dickin is now in his third season of Elite League hockey and is experienced when it comes to Challenge Cup action, looking ahead to the first leg against Sheffield, he said: “The guys are feeling good coming off a big win at home and a good overall team game.
“We are looking to carry that performance over into tomorrow night and that will give us our best chance to win a big hockey game at home.
“We know what to expect from Sheffield this year we have played them lots and we are looking to have a big game tomorrow night and put the pressure on them going back to their barn the next week.”