By Kris Smith
The Kitmart Dundee Stars face a long weekend with three games in three nights.
Stars travel to Belfast on Friday for the second of two meetings with the Giants in Group A of the Challenge Cup. Last Saturday seen Adam Keefe’s men take the two points back to Northern Ireland after goals from Jim Vandermeer, David Rutherford and Kyle Baun (2) secured a 4-2 win. Fabrizio Ricci’s debut goal and Matt Marquardt’s powerplay equaliser were not enough to hold back the Giants.
Belfast’s Darcy Murphy has gotten off to a flying start with a hat-trick in the opening weekend. The forward scored all three goals against the Flyers last Sunday in their 3-1 win in Kirkcaldy. Patrick Dwyer has also impressed in the first few games, Dwyer notched up four assists over last weekend’s two games. Also, former Edinburgh Capitals netminder, Tyler Beskorowany put on an impressive display in Dundee last weekend as he began his first season in teal.
Meanwhile in the Tayside team, Matt Bissonnette, Jordan Cownie and Matt Marquardt have all found the net in the first two weeks. Despite conceding five goals last weekend, Omar Pacha’s men really tightened up at the back against Glasgow on Sunday. Mike Sullivan and Drydn Dow have stood out at back so far for Dundee and Pontus Sjögren has been consistent between the pipes.
Stars head coach, Omar Pacha expects a difficult challenge this weekend, he said: “It is going to be a tough weekend for us playing three in three, but it is going to be a good test for us.
“To go on the road playing Belfast and Fife then coming back home will be a good test and a good chance to get some road games played plus see how we play on the road.”
Discussing how to build on last Saturday’s 4-2 defeat, Pacha added: “We have to have a better start than we did, we have to make sure we come right out from the start, even if it is the first road game.
“It is going to be a long day to get there but we need to start better, the last 45 minutes we played really well.
“We were right there with them and if we do have a good start I think good things can happen.”
In what will be a long weekend for the team with the travel and three games, Omar highlighted what will be important for his side to put in a good showing.
He said: “It is just making sure we are consistently good in our performance and we do the little things right.
“We just need to improve every aspect of our game, what we worked on throughout the week and still it is early on so there are things we will not be perfect at, as long as we get better on a weekly basis.”
Depth is crucial to every team in the league and with hectic schedules, every player gets a chance to shine explains Pacha.
“It is the Challenge Cup phase so we are going to use our whole bench over the course of the weekend.
“These Challenge Cup games will be important to give everybody a chance to play and put them in situations to succeed.
“It gives an opportunity to everybody to play and to show what they can bring, so we just need to keep our energy level up for the whole weekend.”
Finally, the coach concluded with his thoughts on getting three big games out of the way.
He said: “I am really happy to be getting over the Challenge Cup phase but there is still one game left.
“Anytime you can get a three-in-three over and done with, on the Monday you will be happy.
“We are just excited to get that phase done, we will have one more game but if we do well over the weekend then we should be able to qualify for the quarter-finals which is our goal.”
Brian Hart has much experience against the Giants after playing with Dundee last season. Looking ahead to the weekend he said: “With three games against two tough opponents it is a great opportunity for us to prove ourselves and move up in the Challenge Cup standings.
“Three games in three nights is a huge test for any team early in the season and hopefully we can show some character to the fans.”
When asked what improvements were needed to get a positive result, Brian responded: “We will need to have a better start than last weekend, it is a tough team and place to play but it is no excuse for us not to be ready at puck drop.
“We need to keep building our identity as a team, we are a fast and conditioned team that needs to play that way every shift.
“We need to limit our turnovers on blue lines since the Giants can really hurt you in transition, just get pucks deep and try to out skate their bigger defensemen.
“We don’t want to shy away from any big games or teams this season and I’m happy we have the opportunity to prove ourselves so early in the season.”
Face-off is at 7pm and the game is being shown via the Belfast Giants webcast.