By Kris Smith
Stars are completing their final preparations for the biggest weekend of their season so far, as they face the team they are chasing for a playoff spot.
Dundee travel to Glasgow tonight for the first of two games against Braehead Clan this weekend. John Tripp’s men are just a single point ahead of Stars in the league standings with Stars having three games in hand over the Clan.
However, Stars head coach Omar Pacha see’s this weekend as a chance to climb both the league standings and the Gardiner Conference table. A four-point weekend for the Tayside outfit would put them three points clear of Braehead in the league standings and move them into second place in the conference table with a two-point advantage, with two games in hand.
Dundee have had the better form over their last few games as a five-game winning streak was ended by a 3-0 defeat to Nottingham last Sunday. Meanwhile Braehead have only won two of their last six games including a 4-1 loss in their last fixture against Dundee.
Stars last five games shape up as a 3-0 loss in Nottingham shortly after defeating Edinburgh 5-4 at home. The previous weekend Dundee claimed a 6-3 win the Scottish capital after slipping past their biggest rivals, Fife Flyers with a 4-3 overtime victory and the 4-1 home win over Braehead.
Clan lost their last game 5-2 on the road to Fife after narrowly winning 3-2 at home the previous night against the team from Kirkcaldy. They also lost 5-2 in Manchester as part of a double away header with the Storm two weeks ago, John Tripp’s men claimed a 4-3 victory in the first game in Altrincham. Cardiff Devils beat the Clan 1-0 at home in a tightly contested mid-week game.
Dundee will still be without Emerson Hrynyk, Riley Stadel, Johan Andersson as the trio recover from injuries but despite the continuing injury problems Stars form has gone unaffected.
January signing Lukas Lundvald has racked up four goals and a single assist in Stars last five games and Marc-Olivier Mimar has also been putting up the points in the last few games as he has accumulated three assists and a powerplay goal.
Former Braehead defenceman, Cody Carlson has scored two game-winning goals and assisted three times while Travis Fullerton has lost just one of his last six starts and has saved 180 of the 200 shots he faced in the six games.
Robert Lepine and Brendan Brooks have shown their ability to score against Dundee, with Brooks scoring a similar goal in most games against Stars. The 39-year old Canadian loves to fire a high slapshot from close range, usually while on a breakaway and has put quite a few past Dundee’s Travis Fullerton with this shot.
Ex-Stars defenceman, Felix-Antoine Poulin has scored two goals, including one game-winning goal and has assisted five times in the last five games. Ryan Potulny, who missed a section of the season through injury, has shown what he adds to the Clan with three goals in his last five games.
Ryan Nie has made plenty of saves to give Braehead a chance of winning as he has recorded two wins in the last five games, making a total of 180 saves and conceding 18 goals.
Last weekend Braehead were without Tyler Scofield, Tyler Shattock and Craig Peacock due to injury. Lee Esders, Josh Grieveson, Jordan Buesa and Cale Tanaka also did not ice for the Glasgow side.
Last time both teams met Malcolm Gould dropped the gloves with Landon Oslanski but there have been quite a few fights between both sets of players over the course of the season and there is no reason to suspect this match will be any different with a lot more at stake.
Stars head coach, Omar Pacha, believes if his side can stay disciplined and use their speed they will be successful this weekend. He said: “It is going to be a tough weekend but our expectations are to play consistent hockey through the two games.
“It is a tough building in Braehead, but we have to set the tone early and take it to them and use our speed really well.
“I think we will be successful at home and we have been one of the hottest teams at home, it’s a huge weekend so the guys are going to get up for it and it will be exciting, we are all looking forward to it.
“I thought we were a bit better defensively last Sunday and hopefully we can take that into this weekend and be a lot better, offensively I thought that the third period against Edinburgh was something we can build on.
“If we play our brand of hockey, if we do what we do well which is using our speed, driving the net and being steady defensively with good goaltending we will be successful.
“Staying disciplined is key, they are a team that wants to play that physical game, so our special teams have to be better than ever.”
Talking about the two large crowds that are expected over the weekend, Omar added: “Guys feed off of that, so if there are more people in the stands, the players will feed off of that.
“Hopefully they come in numbers, we would expect a huge crowd on Sunday because of our recent success and the importance of the game.”
Chris Wells and Steve Brown are the referees for Saturday night’s game and will be assisted by Ally Flockhart and Lewis Gibson.
Saturday’s game faces-off at 7pm and tickets are available from the Braehead Clan website. Stars fans are advised to purchase their ticket ahead of travelling to Glasgow.