HULL STINGRAYS are plotting a return to the Elite League’s Play-Off Final Four Weekend after being drawn against Braehead Clan in the first round of the post-season.
After a lengthy shoot-out at the Skydome Arena, Hull secured a 2-1 victory over Coventry Blaze in the third meeting between the two teams in just eight days.
A 3-2 win at Fife Flyers saw Braehead seal second place overall in the standings and, with it, a place in the Champions Hockey League next season.
It also meant Hull finished the regular season in seventh, one place above Fife who take on league champions Sheffield Steelers, the reigning play-off champions.
Having lost Cory Tanaka to a facial injury sustained in Saturday night’s 9-4 loss in Braehead, Hull faced Coventry - paired with Nottingham Panthers in the post-season - with just 11 out-skaters.
And although they got off to the worst possible start when Ryan O’Marra put Blaze in front at 1.59, the visitors more than held their own despite a lack of fit and able bodies.
Goaltender David Brown turned away 36 shots overall and Hull’s efforts were eventually rewarded when young British forward Sam Towner came up with the game-tying goal at 57.25 - his fifth of the season.
The two previous meetings between the two had seen Coventry prevail on a shoot-out but, this time, Hull clinched the extra point on offer at the 14th attempt through Will Frederick.
Although Braehead will understandably go into next weekend’s first round two-legged tie as clear favourites, Hull will be confident of causing an upset.
Ryan Finnerty’s team won the head-to-head regular season series between the two teams six games to two.
But Pacha - who will be hoping for good news during the week regarding the fitness of Tanaka, Yan Turcotte and Zach Hervato - believes his team are capable of emulating the Stingrays squad of 2011-12, who reached the Final Four Weekend when they famously beat Sheffield Steelers - then coached by Finnerty - over two legs.
“Braehead is going to be a tough challenge,” admitted Pacha. “In the eight games this season I think we have matched up pretty well against them, except for the last game when we were short-benched and they beat us 9-4.
“But we have beaten them home and away this season so we know we can do it. I am excited and really looking forward to it.”