Opportunity knocks for Stingrays to hit the heights

HULL Stingrays can give an early signal of their Gardiner Conference ambitions when they host Fife Flyers on Sunday night (6pm).

After their stunning 4-3 success at Cardiff Devils on Thursday night assured them of a place in the last eight of the competition, the East Yorkshire club return to the bread and butter of the northern conference.

Stingrays go into the game knowing a win of any kind will take them to the top of the conference table, albeit having played more games than their Scottish rivals.

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Braehead Clan, who lost 5-4 to Nottingham Panthers at the National Ice Centre on Friday night, have long been tipped as many people’s favourites to run away with the Gardiner crown and, with it, potentially the overall Elite League title.

But Hull and the Dundee Stars have already shown that Jordan Krestanovich’s side are not going to be given an easy ride north of the border with an improved Fife also likely to have a big say in matters.

“It’s going to be another big game againsat Fife, all games – particularly these conference games – are this season,” said Hull player-coach Sylvain Cloutier.

“We’ve already achieved one of our goals which was to make it to the next stage of the Challenge Cup – and that was from the toughest group.

“One of our other aims is to top our conference and, at the moment, we’re not doing too bad with that.”

In-form Hull – who have won three of their last four games – beat Fife 5-4 at home last Sunday, despite trailing 3-1 at the end of the first period.

Todd Duiaume’s side have proved to be a more formidable opponent in their second season in the UK’s top flight, pulling off a number of impressive results, including wins over Coventry Blaze and Sheffield Steelers.

Since that home triumph over Ryan Finnerty’s team, however, the Flyers have struggled, losing all six of their games with the latest being a 5-1 reverse at Belfast Giants on Tuesday night.

But Stingrays’ player-coach Sylvain Cloutier knows Fife will be tough to get the better of once again and expects another keenly-fought encounter at the Hull Arena.

“We let Fife play in the first period last time and that can’t happen again,” added Cloutier.

“We need to play our own game, be physical and use our speed, and we know we will cause any team problems.

“The boys are playing really well at the moment and that win in Cardiff and getting to the quarter-finals has given everyone a boost.”