New year fixtures crucial for Braehead Clan's title hopes
Braehead Clan head coach Ryan Finnerty believes the fixtures in the second half of the season can be a crucial factor if his team are to win the Elite League title.
Clan took three points from four against Dundee Stars, keeping them two behind Sheffield Steelers in the standings heading into the festive period.
And Finnerty reckoned the most pleasing thing about the double-header with the Tayside men was the response in losing the first game on Saturday.
He said: "Nobody likes to lose any more than me and the guys on the team don't like it either so the way we came back on Sunday was definitely good for us.
"There's a lot of parity in the league and if you're not prepared, you're not going to win. Sheffield are the most consistent, but they have a lot of tough Conference games coming up.
"We only go to England three more times this season against teams in the other conference, so I feel we've a favourable schedule to come, certainly in terms of travel anyway."
The mini series ended one each between the two teams, with Dundee taking the two points on penalty shots on Saturday night.
Stars' defenceman Sam McCluskey saw his opener cancelled out by Clan captain Matt Keith before Sean Ringrose had the visitors ahead by the end of the second period.
Braehead turned the game around with goals by Stefan Meyer and Neil Trimm, but Igor Gongalsky's late finish took the game beyond regulation time.
Penalty shots from Sean Ringrose and John Dolan proved crucial for Jeff Hutchins' men as the Stars edged their hosts to claim the win.
Braehead got their revenge on Sunday and came from behind to claim their first win in four games with a 4-1 win on Tayside.
Shane Lust put the Stars ahead, but Keith equalised before Scott Pitt put the Glasgow side ahead in the second period.
Leigh Salters added Clan's third with Pitt securing the points with a goal six minutes from time as the weekend ended honours even for both Scots sides.
Stars' forward Lust insists that despite the loss on Sunday, his team are still going in the right direction.
He said: "It was good to get the win on Saturday at Braehead and while we couldn't follow it up on Sunday, it's definitely a step in the right direction for us.
"We've picked up points in the last couple of weeks and while Sunday was a setback, it's important we keep doing that in the games to come."
Fife Flyers began the weekend of action, but had a night to forget as Cardiff Devils routed them 5-0 on Friday night.
Doug Clarkson's double had the Welshmen ahead in the first period with Joey Haddad adding a third to effectively kill the game off in the middle session.
Joey Martin claimed Cardiff's fourth then Andrew Hotham rounded things off late on for the visitors.
Flyers got back to winning ways in impressive style on Saturday, crushing Nottingham Panthers away from home in a 5-1.
Matt Nickerson's goal gave them a first period following an encouraging display, then Bobby Chaumont, Jordan Fulton, Ned Lukacevic and Scott Fleming all scored to make it 5-0.
Chris Lawrence pulled one back for the Panthers, but could not breach the Flyers rearguard again, with the Scots claiming a big win.
They were unable to repeat the feat on Sunday as Coventry Blaze overcame a stirring fightback to beat Todd Dutiaume's men 6-4 in a rollercoaster of a match.
Ben Arnt's brace and one from Jakob Sindel put Blaze 3-0 up in the first, but Flyers levelled things in the middle period with goals from Steven Gunn, Fulton and Chaumont.
Lukacevic had them ahead until Craig Cescon scored twice to restore Blaze's lead with Cale Tanaka applying a late finish to make sure of the points late on.
Edinburgh Capitals had only the one game at the weekend, but saw Belfast Giants come to Murrayfield and grab the points in a 5-2 defeat.
Evan Cheverie and Kevin Westgarth put Belfast ahead, but Caps player-coach Richard Hartmann pulled one back before Cheverie added his second of the game.
Daniel Naslund clawed another back, either side of two more finishes from Westgarth as Edinburgh tasted defeat for the second game in a row.
Fife Flyers 0-5 Cardiff Devils
Braehead Clan 3-4 Dundee Stars
Nottingham Panthers 1-5 Fife Flyers
Coventry Blaze 6-4 Fife Flyers
Dundee Stars 1-4 Braehead Clan
Edinburgh Capitals 2-5 Belfast Giants