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Dundee Stars boss Omar Pacha demands big show for returning fans as ‘Operation Sellout’ mounted for Manchester Storm visit

Dundee Stars head coach Omar Pacha
Dundee Stars head coach Omar Pacha

Omar Pacha’s Dundee Stars have faced plenty of hardship this season.

A horrendous run of early injuries and results, two Covid protocol periods and a Government-mandated attendance cap all hit hard at Dundee Ice Arena.

But ahead of Saturday night’s return to full capacity – and with a full roster to choose from for the visit of Manchester Storm – Pacha is confident his side are on the rise.

Last weekend’s sweep over Coventry Blaze and Sheffield Steelers has whetted the appetite of fans and players alike.

Now – hopefully in front of a sell-out Dundee crowd – the Stars’ boss wants his standings-climbing outfit to put on a show for the supporters who continued to back their club, even when they were locked out.

“We’ve put ourselves in a good position now,” Pacha said.

“It’s been a strange time recently, particularly the last few months.

“Most recently, we’ve been restricted to 200 people per game.

“During that time, we asked our season ticket holders to park their tickets – just for now – and we sold those 200 tickets per game.

“We needed that revenue for cash flow, so to be able to sell those tickets for each game has been great – and the fans have been fantastic.

“The last game we played before the restrictions came in was in front of 5000 people in Belfast, so to go from 5000 to 200 was quite an experience.

“Financially, it was difficult for the club – and things were going really well before the restrictions.

“But the club is very fortunate to have a great fan base who recognise the hard work that goes in.

Dundee Stars fans at the club’s last annual “teddy toss”, after which over 200 soft toys were donated to Ninewells Hospital

“We’re very thankful as a club for everything they have been able to do.

“For now, moving forward, with the momentum we’ve got behind the team, being in reach of fourth or fifth spot in the standings, we’re expecting a huge crowd on Saturday night – probably one of the biggest Saturday night crowds we’ve ever had in January.

“We’re really excited and I know the guys are really looking forward to playing in front of a full Dundee Ice Arena.”

Stars sit seventh in the Elite League standings, two points behind Glasgow Clan and Guildford Flames and six behind fourth placed Nottingham Panthers, who are Sunday’s road opponents.

Their proximity to fourth place – and with two and three games in hand on Nottingham and Guildford respectively – is testament to recent efforts.

Now Pacha wants his players to make those results count by striking against the teams above them while they have the chance.

Dundee Stars’ Charlie Combs (right) comes under pressure from the Steelers’ David Phillips in last weekend’s victory

“We have to remember we started the year one and ten (one win and ten losses),” he said.

“We had numerous injuries, with five to six games in a row where we were missing five or six imports.

“But we got away from that and, prior to our first Covid protocol, we won six out of seven, so things were going good, then we had to go back into Covid protocol, so it’s been a weird process.

“But with the sweep last weekend – including beating Sheffield Steelers, the number one team in the league – hopefully now we can just build momentum and thank our fans for their support by having a strong finish to the season.

Dundee Stars head coach Omar Pacha addresses his players during practice at Dundee Ice Arena

“There’s a bit more than half of the year left and I’m confident in this group – and I think we can accomplish great things if we keep with the process.

“On Sunday against Sheffield there were three guys out and we’ve got that ‘next man up’ mindset in the group right now.

“It has been a challenging time, but we’ve got away from it and won four out of our last five league games.

“Hopefully we can build momentum now and we’re really excited for Saturday night.

“The team’s playing some good hockey, it’s great to have our fans back and hopefully we can put on a good display.”

Dundee Stars: Omar Pacha makes ‘best team in Scotland’ vow with puck set to drop on Elite League ice hockey return

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