SYLVAIN Cloutier wants his Hull Stingrays team to be sharper and more clinical as they look to arrest a run of five straight defeats in a double-header weekend against early-season Elite League pacesetters Dundee Stars.
A 3-2 home defeat against Belfast Giants last Sunday extended Stingrays’ losing streak, although Cloutier is convinced he has the right players to turn things around with only a month of the season gone.
With most games so far for Hull having taken place in the Challenge Cup it is the regular season league which interests Cloutier most and, in particular, the Gardiner Conference.
The arrival of Dundee tonight provides an opportunity for Hull to get some points on the board, with a win enough to take them top of the conference table.
But Jeff Hutchins’s side arrive in East Yorkshire on the back of a startling start to the season which has taken them top of the overall league standings – largely thanks to a schedule which has seen them play the majority of games at home where they have picked up some notable scalps with wins against Sheffield Steelers, Nottingham Panthers, Coventry Blaze and Cardiff Devils.
“It’s no surprise to me that Dundee have had such a good start,” said Cloutier. “They had a good home record last year and Jeff has put together a good team.
“Six of our eight games this month are in our conference and that’s what matters the most – it’s a big month.
“We pushed Belfast close last week but still came out second-best. We need to be more clinical in our own zone, cut out the mistakes and make sharper decisions. But I know we’ve got a good group here and we are going to turn the corner.”
Cloutier said his team had worked hard in practice and had quickly moved on from the disappointment of having what they believed was a good goal by their player-coach to level the game for a second time against Belfast ruled out by the officials last Sunday.
“It was very frustrating because we believed it was a good goal and we would have taken something out of the game, which we would have deserved,” added Cloutier.
“But, as I said to the boys after, we can’t dwell on things like that, you just have to take it and move on to the next game.
“If we play like we did against Belfast then we’re going to be okay.”
The return trip to Dundee on Sunday marks Hull’s first trip north of the border this season in the Gardiner. If they are to avoid missing out on the play-offs for a second straight year, Cloutier acknowledges his team’s form on the road in Scotland must improve.
“We have to make sure we find a way to win games in Scotland this season,” said Cloutier.
“If we don’t, it is going to hurt us as it could be the difference between winning the conference or not even making the play-offs. We found that out to our cost last season and we can’t let it happen again.”