By Kris Smith
Stars travel to Belfast this Wednesday as they take on a good Giants side that are battling for this year’s league title.
After a disappointing weekend for Dundee, Omar Pacha is asking for his side to turn things around and get back on track as they face the Giants who have slipped nine points behind the current league leaders, Cardiff.
Dundee will still be without Emerson Hrynyk, Riley Stadel and Johan Andersson for the league clash in Belfast. Meanwhile Adam Robinson, Jim Vandermeer, Stephen Eccles, Chris Truehl and Ashley Tait were all missing from this weekend’s Giants line-ups plus the injured Stephen Murphy, Mark Garside.
Brandon Benedict also missed Friday’s win over Fife but was back in the team for the 6-3 loss to Manchester after Colin Shields and the injured Dustin Johner were left out on Sunday.
Adam Keefe’s side have recently hit a bump in form, they suffered an 8-0 defeat in Sheffield before heading into four tough home games. The Northern Irish team kicked off their home stint with a 4-3 shootout win over Cardiff before losing in overtime the next night as the Devils avenged themselves with a 3-2 win.
Belfast had a mixed weekend after defeating Fife 6-4 on Friday night before losing 6-3 to the Storm on Sunday. The Giants also recently secured their place in the 2018 Challenge Cup final against Cardiff after defeating Nottingham Panthers 12-7 on aggregate.
Belfast’s centres have been key to their offensive output as Sebastian Sylvestre has scored 24 goals and put up 31 assists in 41 games, while Brendan Connolly has bagged 17 goals and assisted on 35, also in 41 games. Great Britain legend, Colin Shields has also had a great season so far as he is the Giants third top scorer with 19 goals and 26 assists from 42 games.
Brian Hart had a big weekend again for Dundee as he collected 3 points in the double-header with Braehead, moving his total for the season to 15 goals and 10 assists in 37 games. While Cody Carlson also collected 3 points last weekend, making his totals for the season 3 goals and 10 assist in just 12 games.
Craig Holland was called in to action in the last trip to Belfast when Travis Fullerton fell ill but the Stars back-up netminder says the team needs to “reset mentally” and get back to “playing good hockey”.
He said: “It was obviously a disappointing weekend but we have to remain positive, put it behind us and push on. There’s still a lot of hockey to be played and making the playoffs is still the goal.
“It’s a tough building to go into with the travel but we just have to go there with a positive mindset and play our own game, it’s an opportunity to come away with a good result and get us back to winning ways.
“They’re obviously one of the top teams in the league, with a balanced squad with a lot of skilled guys, but we’ve had a good result against them this year so there’s no reason we can’t go and do that again.
“We’ve been playing good hockey recently and up until last weekend we were on a really good run so I don’t think we really need to adapt.
“I think it’s more needing to reset mentally to get back to winning ways.
“We can’t change what happened at the weekend now and dwelling on it too much is just going to set us back.
“It’s a new week and we still have the belief that we will get that playoff spot.”
Stars head coach, Omar Pacha, says there is a lot of hockey left but hopes his team can secure a good result on the road.
He said: “It is back to the drawing board, there is a lot of hockey left and we still have fifteen games to play, you have to start on Wednesday by sealing a result in Belfast.
“Staying out of the box and making sure we create some good scoring chances will be key, unfortunately against Braehead we struggled to finish our chances, but we had a lot of them that we just didn’t finish so hopefully we can change that on Wednesday.
“You have to make sure you play a solid road game, they come out fast and they have good forwards and a solid d-core.
“It is getting through that first period basically trying to keep that game tight, it is about playing our style of hockey and a dirty road game.
“We have been playing good on the road recently, we just haven’t got the bounces, so we need to create more chances to get those opportunities to score”.
Reflecting on last weekend and what changes should be made ahead of the Belfast game, Pacha added: “I think a lot of it comes back to discipline, it was two tight games this weekend and I think the discipline hurt us.
Talking about the importance of winning their games in hand, he also said: “It is massive, but you really have to do it one game at a time, you can’t look further than that.
“Right now, we want to win every game and if we win every game, we are in the playoffs so we got to make sure we go game by game and give ourselves the best chance of winning.”
Stars will face-off against Belfast at 7pm in the SSE Arena, tickets and a webcast are available from the Giants website.