Saturday: Mid-March brings more pressure games

March 16, 2019 8:30 am

As games start to run out before the end of the regular season, teams hit the ice again this weekend battling for league titles and playoff places.

1800 Guildford Flames vs. Dundee Stars (Tickets)

After the heartbreak of losing the Challenge Cup Final in overtime, Guildford return to home ice as they look to consolidate their playoff place and fifth place in the table.

While the Flames have only won one of their last three league games, on their own ice they have an impressive record of late – no loss since 30 January. Only a point above both Sheffield and Fife, the Flames would not want to risk dropping places with a loss.

We’ve had a few days to get over the outcome of the cup final, but now it’s back to business in the league. We need to get ourselves on a run now into the playoffs.” – Paul Dixon (Head Coach, Guildford Flames)

Dundee’s weekend of road matches started last night with an impressive 5-1 win in Glasgow against the Clan. They face the long bus ride down to Guildford still in touch with the playoffs, but will need to pick up some more points over the next two games to make sure they don’t fall back again. Lukas Lundvald seems to be a man in form, netting a hat-trick in Glasgow last night.

We are feeling great, this last push is a great opportunity to gain some points in the standings and keep the playoff push alive. We need to stick to the system, play hard like we have been and play a strong sound 60 minute hockey game that we know we are capable of doing – like we’ve done in the past against the best teams in the league.” – Fabrizio Ricci (Forward, Dundee Stars)

 

At home On road
Flames Stars
Av. Goals For 3.30 2.58
Av. Goals Against 3.00 3.69
Win % 55.56% 26.92%

 

1900 Belfast Giants vs. Coventry Blaze (Tickets | Webcast)

24 hours after the Giants won a close game 4-1 with the help of two late empty net goals, Belfast and Coventry do battle again at the SSE Arena.

The sides only had a goal between them for a large part of the 60 minutes on Friday evening, but on a new day the Giants again need a win to keep up pressure in the title race; while Coventry still sit just outside the playoff places on count-back of wins.

I expect Coventry to be a little better tonight, they’ll come out hard and battle for points. We have to understand that, be prepared, and try to match it.” – Adam Keefe (Head Coach, Belfast Giants)

We have to play as close to 60 minutes as we can. We have to be skating, we have to match the Giants’ pace and physicality. They had a little bit more urgency than us last night and that was the difference in the game.” – Danny Stewart (Head Coach, Coventry Blaze)

At home On road
Giants Blaze
Av. Goals For 4.31 3.54
Av. Goals Against 2.31 3.96
Win % 88.46% 46.15%

 

1900 MK Lightning vs. Fife Flyers (Tickets | Webcast)

Despite being mathematically out of the playoff race, at home Milton Keynes have frustrated Nottingham and Manchester in recent weeks and will now try to beat Fife for the second time.

Last weekend’s defeats to Coventry ended the Lightning’s run of two straight home wins, but with three wins from their last five in their own rink, they’re not a side to be discounted.

We have to find a way to keep our defenseman fresh. Getting the puck in the offensive zone and keeping it there will be key for us. We have to manage the puck well and stay away from the high risk ‘hope’ plays. We need to come out hard and have a great start especially at home.” – Tim Wallace (Player-Coach, MK Lightning)

By taking the overtime win against Sheffield last Sunday, Fife kept themselves well inside the playoff places. Now with three games in hand on the Steelers, and one over Guildford, the Flyers have a chance to climb further back up the table in the closing weeks of this regular season.

We’re trending in the right direction, and we’ve cleaned up lot of areas of our game which needed work– if we keep going in this direction it will be good. We have shown we can play any team in the league – the key is bringing our game every night.” – Rick Pinkston (Forward, Fife Flyers)

The last teams these sides met in MK, the Flyers won it overtime. They’ve not managed a regulation win there in two seasons.

At home On road
Lightning Flyers
Av. Goals For 2.65 3.08
Av. Goals Against 3.38 3.73
Win % 38.46% 38.46%

 

1900 Nottingham Panthers vs. Manchester Storm (Tickets)

Manchester’s win in Dundee last weekend kept them just inside the playoff places, and now having played only one more game than Coventry who were in action last night. The Storm however face a tricky trip to the Motorpoint Arena to face a Panthers’ side that have won their last three home games and want revenge for their shutout defeat to the Storm in mid-January.

“We know what’s at stake. It’s going to be a big game, they’re fighting for the playoffs and we’re trying to get position in the standings. It’s an easy one to get up for and that we’re looking forward to.” – Chris Stewart (Forward, Nottingham Panthers)

That win in Dundee was the Storm’s first on the road since 19 January, and keeps them just ahead inside the Top 8. Anything they can pick up in Nottingham, where they’ve won on two of their four visits this season in various competitions, will go some way to helping them stay in the playoff picture.

At home On road
Panthers Storm
Av. Goals For 3.04 2.33
Av. Goals Against 2.67 3.56
Win % 62.96% 25.93%

 

1900 Sheffield Steelers vs. Cardiff Devils (Tickets | Webcast)

Taking three points from four last weekend helped the Steelers stay five points above falling out of the playoffs altogether, but with only four games left for themselves Tom Barrasso’s men don’t have so much breathing room to confirm their place in the top eight just yet. The team are .500 over their last six games, but did beat title-chasing Belfast a few weeks ago.

Cardiff are a very good team, in my opinion the best in the league. To beat them we just have to play a simple game. We just need to move our feet and get pucks in deep and just play really hard against them because they have got a lot of big bodies and if you don’t play hard against them they are going to make you pay.” – Josh McFadden (Defenceman, Sheffield Steelers)

Cardiff by contrast haven’t played since Friday of last week, but are five games unbeaten since their double loss in Belfast. More impressively perhaps is that the Devils have recorded shutouts in three of those last four wins. It’s been almost a year since the Steelers last beat the Devils, and not since 11 March 2018 have they done it in Sheffield.

It’s another huge game, and they all are until the end of the season. We’ve had some good wins over the Steelers this season, but we are very aware how dangerous they are to play again. It a game we have to be prepared and focussed for.” – Andrew Lord (Head Coach, Cardiff Devils)

At home On road
Steelers Devils
Av. Goals For 3.00 3.50
Av. Goals Against 2.96 2.35
Win % 60.71% 65.38%

 

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