HULL Stingrays head to Edinburgh Capitals on Sunday night looking to salvage their weekend after slipping to a dismal 5-2 defeat at home to Elite League play-off rivals Dundee Stars.
The result saw Dundee close the gap to six points on the Stingrays, who currently occupy the eighth and final play-off spot.
Hull’s woes deepened when news filtered in of a surprise 3-2 win for bottom club Fife Flyers at home to Coventry Blaze which saw them draw level on points with Dundee, but with three games in hand on Stingrays.
Further bad news emerged last night when player-coach Sylvain Cloutier admitted it was unlikely he would be able to bring in a replacement import defenceman, something Hull have been one short of since the departure of former captain Josh Mizerek in November.
With that in mind and stand-in defenceman James Pease also out with a knee injury - the last thing Hull needed ahead of the Dundee game was to lose another body at the back.
But with Dmitry Rodin’s wife going into labour, that was exactly what happened, the Estonian understandably being unavailable to play to leave Stingrays short on experience at the back.
“As of now there won’t be anyone coming in,” said Cloutier afterwards when asked about the latest situation regarding a new import defenceman.
“It’s frustrating, it’s not my call but, right now, the funds are not there.
“Not having Dmitry in the line-up didn’t help us either, but he’ll be back for the Edinburgh game.
“We need to see a reaction up there because, although we can make all the excuses we want tonight, we weren’t good enough and I need my key guys to turn up and produce - too many of them didn‘t do that against Dundee.”
For two periods, in front of a 1,000-plus crowd, Cloutier’s team were good enough but, in the crucial third, they lost their way to hand the chasing Stars - including former Hull favourite Lee Mitchell - a deserved victory.
Cloutier’s tip-in from a Kurtis Dulle shot gave Hull a 27th-minute lead on the power play and, after Derek Campbell dropped the gloves with Dundee’s Brennan Turner for a five-minute major apiece, Hull thought they had doubled their lead through top scorer Jereme Tendler, only for it to be disallowed after the officials ruled the net had left its moorings.
Within five minutes, Dundee were level, when Mark Kolanos prodded home after a goalmouth scramble and it got worse two minutes into the third, Dundee were ahead after a soft turnover on the halfway line saw Dundee break down ice. They still had plenty to do to create a clear but Stingrays were too slow to react, allowing Turner to fire past Christian Boucher.
The Canadian almost made it 3-1 just after, but Boucher denied him and, within seconds, the home side were level when Chris Whitley could only parry Dulle’s fierce shot into the path of Jason Silverthorn, who neatly rounded a defenceman before slotting the puck home.
Within a minute, however, the visitors were ahead again, when slack marking at the back post on a Dundee break allowed Jeff Hutchins to slide the puck through Boucher’s pads at 44.04.
Stingrays seemed to be rattled and could have gone further behind were it not for a neat Boucher save, but he was powerless to prevent Dundee doubling their lead at 50.27, Brent Hughes breaking quickly following another fruitless Hull attack before feeding Hutchins, who fizzed his shot past Boucher into the top left-hand corner.
Stingrays pushed hard to get back into the game but struggled to create any clear-cut chances. And when they pulled Boucher for the man advantage, the inevitable happened when John Dolan chipped into the empty net to seal the points for the Stars with just 32 seconds remaining.