Sheffield Steelers v Dundee Stars: Losing streak not on Pacha’s mind as he faces long-time nemesis again

Levi Nelson
 makes a hit along the boards when Sheffield Steelers last met Dundee Stars at Ice Sheffield in September. Picture: Dean Woolley
Levi Nelson makes a hit along the boards when Sheffield Steelers last met Dundee Stars at Ice Sheffield in September. Picture: Dean Woolley
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AS records go, there’s no escaping the fact it’s a pretty dismal one.

In 21 games ever since first taking the player-coach reins at the now defunct Hull Stingrays, Omar Pacha has never beaten the Sheffield Steelers.

Tonight gives him his latest chance to end that run when he returns to South Yorkshire with his current team, Dundee Stars, where he moved in the summer after two seasons at the helm of Manchester Storm.

The two meet for a second time this season at Ice Sheffield with Pacha keen to avoid a repeat of the 8-2 mauling his team suffered there in September.

The Stars arrive sitting second-bottom in the Elite League standings, but buoyed by a 5-4 home win against second-placed Manchester Storm. They will be met by a Steelers side licking their wounds after a 3-2 defeat at Cardiff Devils.

But while Steelers’ fans will need no invitation to remind Pacha of his losing streak against their team, the 30-year-old is only thinking of the two points – regardless of who he is facing.

“We’ve already lost twice to Sheffield this season – that is what bothers me most,” said Pacha, who started out the season behind the bench but in recent weeks has been pressed into action on the ice due to injuries.

“Whatever has happened against them in the past, is just that, in the past. To be honest all I’m thinking about is us winning tomorrow, it doesn’t matter to me whether it’s Sheffield, I want to win against all teams, all of the time.

“There were a few times when I was at Manchester when games went down to the wire and into overtime, but in the two games against them this year they’ve fully deserved to win – especially there.

“They’ve got so much depth and you know it is always going to be tough against a team like that, but we need the points as much as they do.”

Omar Pacha is likely to be playing at Ice Sheffield due to injuries. Picture courtesy of Derek Black/EIHL.

Omar Pacha is likely to be playing at Ice Sheffield due to injuries. Picture courtesy of Derek Black/EIHL.

Opposite number Paul Thompson expects a tougher night against Pacha’s team this time around and is hoping his own team can provide some overdue consistency in order to move back up to second in the overall standings.

“I want us to use our speed and put in a penetrating, 60-minute performance,” said head coach Thompson. “I want to see that consistency that perhaps hasn’t always been there in our game.

“Dundee have been good recently and had some excellent results as of late. Since the addition of Justin Fox to their line up they have more speed and skill. Their first two lines are a little more balanced and carry an offensive threat that perhaps they didn’t have when we played them in Sheffield last time.

“It’s a big game for us and we need to get back to winning ways.”

Whatever has happened against them in the past, is just that, in the past. All I’m thinking about is us winning. It doesn’t matter to me whether it’s Sheffield, I want to win against all teams, all of the time.

Dundee Stars coach, Omar Pacha.

Steelers, meanwhile, have received a welcome boost to their preparations for next week’s Continental Cup in Denmark after defenceman Joonas Ronnberg confirmed he would be available.

The 34-year-old Finn headed home last week after just two months in South Yorkshire, but has informed Thompson he will be joining them in Rungsted.

“When Joonas left we kept the door open that he would play over in Denmark, I know it was something he was keen to do,” added Thompson. “We’ve spoken again and agreed everything. He will be a big asset to us in what will be a very difficult competition.”

Sheffield Steelers head coach Paul Thompson talks to assistant Jerry Andersson.
 Picture: Helen Brabon

Sheffield Steelers head coach Paul Thompson talks to assistant Jerry Andersson. Picture: Helen Brabon