Murrayfield Racers, who last weekend were crowned Scottish National League champions, take a six-goal aggregate lead into tomorrow’s Scottish Cup semi-final second leg at Kirkcaldy Kestrels.
But despite the huge advantage, director of hockey Tony Hand expects a tough game in Fife as he prepares his troops for a season run-in that could see the Murrayfield men pick up a further three trophies.
Racers rounded off the league season with easy wins in back-to-back fixtures against Kilmarnock Thunder and Solway Stingrays, the SNL’s two weakest teams, and will play Stingrays again next week in a winner-takes-all play-off quarter-final tie at Murrayfield.
Hand is concerned that the straightforward league run-in, that included two game-free weekends, has seen his team’s performance level drop ahead of the play-off finals held at Dundee Ice Arena in two weeks, and he said: “We’re going to have to shake things up a little bit on Sunday, we have a six-goal lead, but I’ve not been happy with our preparation. We’ve played Kilmarnock and Solway as well as having a couple of weeks with no games at all. It’s been a while since we were down in the trenches.”
In the other five games between the two teams this season there have been two draws and a narrow 3-2 Racers win in Kirkcaldy.
Hand continued: “Kirkcaldy are a good side and we’ve had a lot of tough games with them this year. I don’t care what the score is, as long as we qualify.
“It will be good for us to have a hard-fought game and then have a few hard weeks of practice. After the last few weeks we’ve had we need to get back into peak condition and get our head around the fact that we have some tough games coming up.
“The top four teams are going to make the play-off finals and nothing is even close to being guaranteed, I want us to get back to where we were six or seven weeks ago. Even last week against Kilmarnock (in an 8-1 win) something wasn’t quite right, I felt we were going through the motions a little bit.”