Elite League preview: Pacha aiming to storm into the play-offs

Manchester boss Omar Pacha has urged the team’s fans to roar Storm into the Elite League play-offs when they face Nottingham Panthers on Sunday.

Victory over the Panthers would guarantee Storm their place in the end-of-season shoot-out and Pacha believes that would be a major achievement for his team.

“Sunday will be the biggest game of our franchise history so far, so I expect our crowd to be close to sell out and make a lot of noise for us,” he told EIHL media.

“We’re focused on Sunday and I think we play better in front of a packed barn – we’re really looking forward to it.

“We have a chance to qualify for the play-offs as a new franchise and that’s the most important thing for me. It’s just getting this team there and having that morale boost going forward.”

Dundee Head Coach Marc LeFebvre admits he hoped Nottingham would do his team a play-off favour – but is confident the Stars will still finish in the top eight.

Panthers needed to win in regulation time in their game on Wednesday against Manchester, but lost 3-1 to keep the Stars on edge heading into this weekend’s double-header against Fife Flyers.

“I think everybody was hoping Nottingham could have done us a favour on Wednesday, but it is what it is and we still have our fate in our hands on Saturday when we go to Fife,” he said.

“A combination of a lot of things could happen, but we’ve rather go through the front door than the back so it’s up to us to get the job done.

“It’s fun being involved in this dog-fight, especially this week getting the guys prepared. You obviously do a bit of scoreboard watching, but I think it’s great it’s gone down to the wire.

“It’s great for the league also. Obviously if we’d had some better results earlier on we wouldn’t be in this position – it is what it is and it’s exciting for the fans too.

“Looking ahead to Fife, it’s a local rivalry and I wouldn’t be surprised if they wanted to see us knocked out of the play-offs.

“They’ll want to have momentum going into the play-offs, but our recent record against them has been good.

“We’ve won the last two times we’ve gone there and won the last three so we’re pretty confident, but anything can happen when it comes to these types of showdowns.”

Braehead Clan Head Coach Ryan Finnerty is happy to have nothing riding on Saturday’s home game against Edinburgh Capitals.

The Clan needed two wins over the Caps last season to snatch the Gardiner Conference title from under the noses of Fife, but this weekend’s clash is likely to be a less-pressurised affair.

“When I think back to when we played Edinburgh in the last two games a year ago, it’ll definitely be much less stressful,” Finnerty said.

“It was exciting at the time and had to win out to take the Conference title. We’d been on a good run and ended up completing the job.

“This time we want to build on the overtime win we got in Coventry last Sunday and keep that feeling going within the group.

“Going into the mindset of thinking these games are dead rubbers is dangerous. Whenever you develop that mentality, that’s when bad habits are formed and injuries can happen.

“Edinburgh have a lot of pride over there and have a good team and a good group this season. It’s dangerous playing a team that have nothing to lose.

“They’ll play loose and we’ve seen before, teams with that kind of style carry a certain threat and we have to make sure we take care of our game and play to our level.”

WEEKEND FIXTURES

Saturday

Braehead Clan v Edinburgh Capitals
Cardiff Devils v Belfast Giants
Fife Flyers v Dundee Stars

Sunday

Cardiff Devils v Belfast Giants
Dundee Stars v Fife Flyers
Edinburgh Capitals v Braehead Clan
Manchester Storm v Nottingham Panthers
Sheffield Steelers v Coventry Blaze

(Image permission: Karl Denham)

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