By Kris Smith
The Kitmart Dundee Stars take on the Elite League champions for the first time this season in a mid-week clash as their hectic schedule continues.
Stars currently occupy 6th place in the Elite League standings with 5 points after 5 games. Cardiff Devils are in 4th place on 6 points after playing 4 games.
Stars come into the game on the back of a 3-2 overtime defeat to Milton Keynes Lightning. It also comes after Omar Pacha’s side played four matches in five days and managed to win four points, two from an important win over silverware contenders, Belfast Giants.
Andrew Lord’s Devils have only lost one of their league matches since their Champions Hockey League exit and it was a 4-3 loss to Nottingham Panthers. Since then they have won their last two games with a 5-2 win over Guildford Flames and an 8-1 thrashing of Glasgow Clan.
François Bouchard continues to lead Dundee in points with 11 from 10 games, while Matt Pope and Mike Hedden are the highest scoring Devils with 12 points each from seven games.
Stars goalie, Pontus Sjögren made 150 saves over the four games last weekend and played 250 minutes, looking back on the week where he was named ‘Man of the Match’ twice, he said: “I feel I have given the team a chance to win every evening so far, which I am pleased with.
“Then it is a team sport and I have gotten good help from our defence, they have worked really well during the start of the season.”
As the team prepare for a tough test against Cardiff, Pontus added: “It does not matter who we meet, every team can beat each other in this league so it is about being ready every night.
“I believe in good habits and preparations every day to perform as well as possible, Cardiff will be a great challenge for us.”
The win over Belfast will have boosted the morale in the Stars dressing room and with the chance to beat another title challenging team, Sjögren said:
“It was an important victory, especially from the way we won on Saturday and it strengthens the group and shows character.
“We already showed it in Milton Keynes, we came back in the third period and it was our best period so far, despite having four matches in five days.
“It shows strength and something we will build upon as well as increased self-confidence in the team.”
Forward Brian Hart has resumed his great start in his second season with Dundee, after hitting the ground running last year. The American has recorded a point in each of the last four games. Talking about his recent point streak, Brian said: “It is always nice to get on the scoresheet but the team recorded a losing record so not going to say I am happy by any means.”
Hart has experienced playing against the reigning champions but insists Stars have a chance against the “strongest opponent in the league”. He added:
“We know Cardiff is probably the strongest opponent in the league but just need to focus on our game and keep working on our identity.
“I believe we are miles ahead of the Stars team last year and just hope we can continue to improve.”
Face-off is at 7:30pm and tickets are available online and from the DIA box office.