Steelers Preview

By Kris Smith

Stars are looking to build on last week’s win when they travel to Sheffield tonight, aiming to claim their first victory in Yorkshire.

The Kitmart Dundee Stars face eighth placed Sheffield Steelers who are just one point ahead of Omar Pacha’s Stars. It was a close encounter in their last meeting where Stars nearly walked away the victors at the Fly DSA.

Stars took the lead through Brian Hart and Matt Marquardt in the second period before being pegged back by goals from Jordan Owens and Chris Lawrence as Sheffield tied it late. Ex-Stars forward, Lawrence scored the game-winning penalty shot after the game required a shootout to decide the winner.

Steelers were in action on Halloween and came back three times against Coventry Blaze in Yorkshire before eventually winning the game in overtime. Stefan Della Rovere, Aaron Johnson (2), Mark Matheson and Ben O’Connor were all on the scoresheet for Sheffield.

Since they last met, Sheffield head coach Paul Thompson was replaced by Tom Barrasso after a bad start to the season for Steelers. Ryan Martindale joined and left the club before Brendan Brooks was also released and then picked up by Manchester Storm. Chris Lawrence and defenceman Jiri Gula were also released this week as Barrasso continued to alter his squad.

To counter all the departures, Ben O’Connor retuned to the club after a few months in the Swedish Allsvenskan league. The new head coach has also brought in an experienced goaltender in Matt Climie and could make his debut against Dundee tonight.

Youngster, Brandon Whistle and Climie were the only players missing from Sheffield’s line-up against Coventry on Wednesday.

Josh Pitt leads the Steelers in scoring with eight goals and six assists from 16 Elite League games. After picking up three assists on Wednesday evening, Justin Buzzeo is now also on 14 points. Steelers goalie, Jackson Whistle has a goals against average of 3.47 and .887 save percentage after 16 league starts.

Lukas Lundvald still leads Dundee in points with seven goals and eight assists from 11 league appearances. The Dane has continued to extend his point streak and now has at least one point in the last nine games. From 12 league matches, Stars keeper Pontus Sjögren has conceded an average of 2.75 goals a game and stopped .912 per cent of the shots he has faced.

Looking ahead to the weekend, Stars head coach Omar Pacha said: “I think we played well last time we were there and we are playing good hockey.

“Even though they are a team that has improved, I am confident we can still get a result.”

When asked what it will take for his side to win, Pacha replied: “I think we just have to play consistent for 60 minutes and capitalise on our chances.

“I think we had a lot of good chances last time we went there but unfortunately we could not bury them.

“They are a well improved team, so I expect a harder match-up than we got last time but we seem to play well against everybody at times, so I do not see why we cannot get a result.”

The Canadian insists it is important for his side to build on last weekend’s win. He said: “I think it is going to be important to keep it rolling.

“If the guys play to the system and it is more about starting to capitalise on their Grade A chances.

“If we play like we did in the third (period) against Milton Keynes then I am confident we can win against everybody.”

Finally, Pacha discussed his side’s injury concerns for the weekend, he added: “Dow and Bissonnette are doubtful but we will see who is healthy for the game and we will just have to go from there.

“Sometimes these things happen but we have dealt with it before so it is not a big deal.”

Tonight’s game in Sheffield will begin at 7pm.