HULL Stingrays bounced back from a miserable night at home to secure two valuable points in Edinburgh as the race for the Elite League play-offs intensified.
It was all doom and gloom in front of a 1,000-plus crowd at Hull Arena on Saturday after a 5-2 defeat to Dundee Stars combined with a shock 4-3 win for bottom club Fife Flyers over Coventry Blaze saw Stingrays’ play-off rivals gain valuable ground.
But Stingrays – currently sat in the eighth and final play-off spot – delivered the perfect answer with a 4-2 road win over the Capitals on Sunday night, closing the gap on their seventh-placed hosts to just one point.
Dundee made it a three-point weekend after a 4-3 shoot-out defeat at home to Sheffield Steelers to close the gap on Hull to seven points, while Fife remain eight points back after a 4-1 defeat at Nottingham Panthers.
Hull remain one import defenceman short following the release in December of former captain Josh Mizerek, a situation Cloutier now says may still change before the trade deadline at the end of the month.
“As of now, there won’t be anybody coming in, but there are still nearly two weeks left so you never know,” said Cloutier.
“But in order for it to happen everything has to fit into place. I don’t think it’s totally dead but it depends on a lot of things.
“I’m proud of my boys after tonight (in Edinburgh). We showed that, as a group, we can do it – we played as a team and it’s a big, big win for us.
“After watching the game video from Saturday, I don’t actually think we played that badly, despite losing. We dominated the game I felt but, at crucial times just fell asleep and they seemed to capitalise on it.
“Winning in Edinburgh is a good way to respond though and there’ll certainly be a few smiles heading back to Hull.”
After a goalless first period, Dominic Osman put Stingrays ahead on the powerplay within a minute of the restart. That is how it stayed until a frantic final seven minutes, kick-started when Andrew McKinney doubled the lead with his second goal of the season.
Rene Jarolin, the league’s top marksman, quickly halved the deficit at 55.34 but then Hull’s own top marksman, Jereme Tendler, then scored twice within 16 seconds to secure the points, despite Richard Hartmann grabbing a late consolation.
On Saturday, the Stingrays outshot the Stars 38-39 on the night but a poor third period saw them concede three soft goals in what could still prove to be crucial match come the end of the regular season.
After a goalless first period, Cloutier tipped-in to give his team a 27th-minute lead before Mark Kolanos scrambled home an equaliser nine minutes later.
Dundee went ahead at 42.02 through Brennan Turner and although Jason Silverthorn quickly replied - neatly working space for himself to shoot past Chris Whitley after picking up a rebound from Kurtis Dulle’s shot – Jeff Hutchins restored the visitors’ lead within a minute at 44.04 after being allowed to roam freely at the back post to slide the puck through Christian Boucher’s pads.
And it was Hutchins who delivered the killer blow six minutes later, latching on to a Brent Hughes pass after another fruitless Stingrays attack to fire high past Boucher’s left side. And as the Stingrays netminder was pulled towards the end, John Dolan rubbed salt into the wounds with an empty net strike.