GUILLAUME DOUCET says Hull Stingrays have to seize the initiative in Dundee tonight as they look to secure the win that would all but guarantee a place in the Elite League play-offs.
With only three games of the regular season remaining, Sylvain Cloutier’s team stand on the brink of making the post-season, with Wednesday night’s 7-3 home win over Fife putting them five points clear of the ninth-placed visitors, who do have a game in hand.
The Stingrays make their last trip of the regular season to Scotland tonight, in a visit to recently-crowned Gardiner Conference champions Dundee Stars, a team who have enjoyed superiority over them so far this season, having won six of the seven encounters between the two sides.
Aside from Hull’s 4-2 win over Dundee at home in January, the Stars have edged all the other meetings by the odd goal, prompting Stingrays forward Doucet to call on the East Yorkshire club to strike first on the Tayside ice tonight.
“Dundee deserved to win the Conference, they won some big games and they play smart hockey,” said Doucet, whose first period goal against Fife took his tally for the season to 48, just two behind the league’s leading scorer, Ryan Ginand of Coventry.
“Every time we play them they seem to have scored the first goal and then we are having to force things and that doesn’t work for us. As you saw against Fife, we are a team that plays better when in the lead. We’ve got to make sure we get that first goal, then they are going to have to open up and that is when we’re good.
“Their goalie Dan Bakala has played great against us every single time, but we just have to shoot more and get into the dirty areas – maybe get a rebound, a dirty goal. He’s not going to stop everything if he doesn’t see it,
“He’s a good goalie, but if we don’t shoot on him that’s when we make it easy for him and that’s why we’ve lost to them.”
A weekend on the road takes Hull to Sheffield Steelers tomorrow night (5pm), with Gerad Adams’s men no doubt keen to earn revenge after losing 5-1 in Hull last Saturday.
But Doucet said Hull had every right to go into the Motorpoint Arena full of confidence.
“When we play good we know we can beat anybody – we’ve beaten Nottingham twice and we’ve beaten Sheffield,” added Doucet. “They need the points too because they want to finish as high as possible in the table to get a good seeding for the play-offs.”
Steelers head to Edinburgh Capitals tonight ahead of their visit from Hull. They sit three points clear in second place in the overall standings and can guarantee third seeding in the play-offs if they win both games and third-placed Nottingham lose at play-off chasing Coventry.
The defeat in Hull aside, there’s been a notable improvement in the Steelers’ performances under former Cardiff coach Adams.
British forward Jon Phillips, who played with Adams in Cardiff for one season before moving to South Yorkshire, said Adams’s arrival has clearly had the desired positive effect.
“As players, we must take our share of the responsibility for how we were playing,” said Phillips.
“‘G’ has come in, he likes to play a simple game and makes sure that everyone is playing to the best of their ability.
“But whenever you get a new coach - whatever sport it’s in – there always seems to be a positive effect because all the players feel then that they are playing for their places and ice time.
“He has made it clear to us that everything from hereon in is about the play-offs and he wants to see an improvement from now right the way through.
“We have struggled at times this season and I don’t know why because we are a good team, we’ve shown that at times. We just need to make sure we show it over these next few weeks when it matters.”