Cloutier to use Cup games positively

DESPITE qualification for the Challenge Cup semi-finals now impossible for Hull Stingrays, player-coach Sylvain Cloutier wants his players to use this weekend’s two group games to maintain recent high standards.

With no points from their four Group B games so far, Hull have only pride left to play for, starting with this weekend’s home double-header against Sheffield Steelers and Cardiff Devils, the two sides looking to join runaway group leaders Nottingham in the last four.

After an opening run of only one win in 14 games, Hull’s season finally clicked with a run of three straight league wins, before an unlucky 3-1 defeat to league leaders Belfast last Sunday.

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Buoyed by the transformation in terms of both results and performances Cloutier – who on Monday is expected to announce which player is to be released from the roster because of that poor start – wants his team to stay maintain recent high standards.

“We are playing well at the moment and there is no reason why we can’t take two wins at home this weekend,” said Cloutier. “It will be hard because they are two good teams, but we’ve pushed them both close this season.

“We had a bad game in Sheffield earlier this season when we just did not show up and they took advantage (steelers won 6-0).

“We took them all the way in our home opener, but just fell apart for seven minutes and it cost us.

“We will have to compete. They have a good side, they are well balanced, strong defensively and have a good goalie.”

For Steelers, R J Flath will look to build on a promising first weekend with the club, scoring two goals on his debut against Dundee Stars before playing his part in a 2-0 win at Coventry Blaze the following night.

Forward and assistant coach Ashley Tait requires just two assists to reach the milestone of 300 all-time assists.

While Hull take on Cardiff on Sunday (6pm), the Steelers follow-up tonight’s Yorkshire derby by welcoming the improving Edinburgh Capitals to Ice Sheffield (6pm).

After a nightmare season last time around - which saw the Scottish club limp to the end of the season due to off-ice financial concerns - the Capitals appear to have found a winning formula, with a clutch of relatively-unknown Eastern European players helping them win five of their last seven games.

In the English Premier League, Sheffield Steeldogs take on fierce rivals Manchester Phoenix at Ice Sheffield, with the unusual face-off time of 1pm due to evening events nearby, including the Britney Spears concert at the Motorpoint Arena and the After Dark Bonfire Night.