Signs remain positive for Stingrays - Cloutier

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HULL Stingrays may have ended the weekend having drawn another blank, but player-coach Sylvain Cloutier still saw reasons to be optimistic.

After a promising pre-season which culminated in them lifting the P&O Cup in Coventry, Hull have failed to maintain that winning mentality, going into the weekend having won only one of their five opening league games.

Admittedly they had come up against the Elite League’s leading lights in Sheffield, Nottingham, Coventry and Belfast, but it was, ironically, in their only win of the campaign that concerns grew as they laboured to a 3-2 shoot-out win over league newcomers Fife Flyers last weekend.

Despite calls from Cloutier to sharpen up, worse was to come in Sheffield on Saturday night when a lacklustre Hull team slumped to a 6-0 defeat at the Motorpoint Arena.

Ryan Finnerty’s Steelers were solid and scrooge-like at the back and ruthless on the break but it couldn’t mask a poor performance from Cloutier’s team who went down through doubles from Ashley Tait and Mike Ramsay and further strikes from Finnerty and Neil Clark.

Hull proved a match for the Steelers in a busy, yet goalless second period, but still struggled to pose a serious threat on John DeCaro’s goal. Yet it was familiar defensive errors and some woeful marking which proved to be their undoing in both the first and third.

But, typically, the East Yorkshire club came out fighting back on home ice on Sunday, displayed the battling qualities for which they have become well known. And despite suffering another loss – this time a 3-2 defeat in the Challenge Cup to Nottingham Panthers - there was plenty for supporters to feel positive about, particularly those who had endured Saturday’s display against the Steelers.

After a goalless first period - memorable more for Derek Campbell being given a five-plus-game misconduct for checking from behind - Frantisek Bakrlik, virtually anonymous in Sheffield, put Hull ahead on the powerplay in the 26th minute before Panthers levelled 42 seconds later through Matt Francis.

Dmitry Rodin’s powerplay effort in the 41st minute restored the home side’s lead but strikes from Scott Champagne and Corey Neilson sealed the win.

Cloutier admitted it had been a frustrating weekend seeing his side follow their worst performance of the season with a greatly-improved showing against the Panthers.

“It is frustrating as a coach when that happens, but we played really well against Nottingham – it was the best game we have played in the last two weeks,” said Cloutier.

“We competed for 60 minutes and if we play like that every night we will get our wins I’m sure.

“We need to start picking up points in the league though and next weekend will be big for us.”

phil.harrison@ypn.co.uk

Twitter: @philarra

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