Road to Fife offers Rays chance to bounce back

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PLAYER-COACH Sylvain Cloutier is looking for his Hull Stingrays team to claw back some ground on their Gardiner Conference rivals when they visit Fife Flyers on Tuesday night.

Stingrays topped the northern group table ahead of the weekend, but wins for Dundee Stars and Braehead Clan saw the East Yorkshire club slip to third in the standings following Sunday’s 2-1 defeat at Coventry Blaze.

Hull will head to Kirkcaldy in positive mood despite Sunday’s setback at the Skydome Arena, their first reverese in five games, a run which included two home wins over a Fife side who have lost nine of their last 10 outings.

But despite the current poor run of form for Todd Dutiaume’s side, Cloutier is expecting another close battle when the two meet for the third time this season.

“A lot of Fife’s losses have been by the odd goal – including two games at our place – so we know how tough they are to play against. We’re on their ice this time and we need to make sure we can continue our hold over them,” said Cloutier, who may stick with back-up netminder Greg Blais if first-choice Ben Bowns is still affected from his travels back to the UK on Monday after away being on international duty in Japan with Great Britain.

“These Conference games are massive for us and we need to get back to winning ways,” added Cloutier, who hopes to have top scorer Janis Ozolins back in the line-up after he missed Sunday’s trip to Coventry. “Dundee are now top after two wins and Braehead beat Edinburgh on Friday so we need to close that gap again.

“We’re going to see how Ben is on the trip up there before we make a decision on goaltending. But after the weekend we now know how good a back-up we’ve got in Greg. He played really well on both nights and should have had man-of-the-match on Sunday. It’s good to know we have somebody who can step right up if Ben’s not available for any reason.”

Following Sunday’s 4-0 defeat at Cardiff Devils, Flyers’ assistant coach Danny Stewart, said home ice should prove to be a crucial advantage for the Scottish club on Tuesday.

“Hull are very much on form at the moment and have turned us over in our previous two visits to their place,” said Stewart.

“They have a big offensive punch and play with a lot of energy, but with the systems we have in place we are confident that we can shut them down and turn them over up here because we’ve got a good home record.”

SHEFFIELD Steelers’ away game at Belfast Giants on February 9 has been put back two weeks to February 23 due to it clashing with Team GB’s Olympic qualification campaign on the same weekend in Latvia.

Giants coach Doug Christiansen and several of his players will be away with the national team in Riga, while up to eight Steelers’ players could be included in Tony Hand’s squad.

phil.harrison@ypn.co.uk

Twitter: @PHarrisonYP