Ice hockey: Scottish trio primed for play-off quarter-finals

Cale Tanaka celebrates a Dundee goal against Braehead Clan from earlier in the season
Cale Tanaka celebrates a Dundee goal against Braehead Clan from earlier in the season. Will he be celebrating again this weekend?

Former Fife Flyers assistant coach Danny Stewart reckons failure to reach the play-offs would be a disappointment for Braehead Clan - but has tipped them to get past Dundee Stars.

Ryan Finnerty's side will face the Stars in this weekend's quarter finals for a place in the Elite League finals weekend in Nottingham.

Stewart's old team have Belfast Giants to contend with as they aim to reach the showpiece event for the second straight year.

And Stewart, now head coach of Coventry Blaze, reckons the all-Scottish element to the two-legged tie will add to an already intense occasion.

"Braehead have had some success in the league, but have only been at the finals once, in 2014 and having won the (Gardiner) Conference several times now, they'll want to get there," Stewart said.

"Anything other than that would be a disappointment. Braehead were similar to us at Coventry in terms of inconsistency, but found better form in the second half of the season.

"Offensively, they're up there and you only need to look at the scoring charts to see what they're all about.

"The fact it's an all-Scottish tie certainly adds to it, having been involved in a couple of those myself and I think the outcome of the first night in Dundee will give us a tell-tale sign of where it could go.

"The Stars will carry that underdog mentality. They won some big games to get through and have found some form as well as scored goals.

Danny Stewart's Coventry Blaze
Danny Stewart's Coventry Blaze were knocked out, but the former Fife associate coach has cast his eye on the Scottish prospects in the play-offs

"For them, it would be a great accomplishment. It's interesting to call, but I think Braehead may edge it, which I'll no doubt take some flak for."

Stewart spent five years in Kirkcaldy as associate coach to Todd Dutiaume before leaving for Coventry last summer and helped them to two play-off weekends, in 2014 and last year.

They prepare to go to Belfast on Saturday before coming back to what's expected to be a sell out crowd in the 'auld barn' on Sunday night.

While Stewart thinks the Giants, who finished second in the Elite League, will have too much for Fife, he hasn't ruled them out of causing an upset.

Fife Flyers are unbeaten at home against Belfast Giants this season
Fife Flyers are unbeaten at home against Belfast Giants this season

"It could be an interesting series between them and if Fife can keep it close against Belfast in the first leg, they have every chance bringing it home for the second game," he said.

"I think it depends on which Fife team show up though. They had our number this year certainly and, at times, I've seen them play at another level.

"With Shane Owen in the net, they certainly have a chance and the scoring they have up front is certainly as good as anyone in the league.

"There's been progression in Fife year on year, including last year when they went to the play-off finals weekend. Having that experience will be a huge help.

"In our case in reaching the two finals we have, we were sixth seed one year and seventh in the other and managed to overcome the second seed so that's huge on them.

"The key is getting a decent result in Belfast and no doubt, getting any kind of lead to take home certainly gives you an advantage, but it's a tough place to go.

"For me, it's certainly not a given, but Fife have the quality to cause an upset, but I would probably have to go with Belfast."



Play-off, quarter-final first leg

Belfast Giants v Fife Flyers (19:00)

Dundee Stars v Braehead Clan (19:00)


Play-off, quarter final second leg

Braehead Clan v Dundee Stars (18:00)

Fife Flyers v Belfast Giants (18:30)

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