Cloutier: Next five games will be key for Hull Stingrays
COACH Sylvain Cloutier says Hull Stingrays must cash in on their next five games – or risk leaving themselves with a mountain to climb next month.
Fellow Gardiner Conference teams Braehead three times, plus Fife and Edinburgh once each, loom next for Stingrays.
Failure to collect a big points haul will undermine Stingrays' hopes of topping their Conference and securing a favourable second-place seeding for the play-offs.
"It's a big two and a half weeks coming up for us," said Cloutier.
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"I don't know whether it's season-defining, but it will be tough if we don't get anything out of the next five games.
"We will dig ourselves a big hole if not and we can't afford to do that, given we repeatedly play the top five sides next month."
Stingrays started their run against their fellow Gardiner Conference teams with a 3-1 win in Edinburgh last night.
Jason Silverthorn's 18th-minute short-hander split the teams at the first break.
Martin Cingel levelled on the half-hour, but Kurtis Dulle restored Stingrays' lead three minutes later.
In a tense finale, Jereme Tendler scored an insurance policy goal inside the final two minutes.
"After Saturday against Belfast I wanted a reaction and I got it," said Cloutier.
"It was a massive road win as we need to keep Edinburgh behind us and keep up with Braehead and Dundee, otherwise we will make life hard for ourselves."
On Saturday Stingrays did everything but put the puck in the net during a goalless first period, more than matching their table-topping visitors.
They were undone by leaking two goals in two minutes from Craig Peacock and Andrew Fournier.
Tendler's long-range effort made it 2-1, but a Noah Clarke rocket left it 3-1 at the second break.
Belfast looked comfortable nesting on their two-goal cushion, but Stingrays plugged away and were rewarded with Silverthorn's shorthander, coming close to taking the game into overtime in the last few minutes.
Given the sides' respective budgets, 3-2 was a heartening scoreline but was, nevertheless, tinged with disappointment.
"It was a match I felt was there for the taking," said Cloutier.
"We had a great first period, but fell asleep for 10 minutes in the second.
"If you do that against a team like Belfast they will make you pay."