Ice hockey: Storm coach optimistic

THE MANCHESTER Storm coach, Kurt Kleinendorst, is relishing his side's underdog tag going into tomorrow's opening European Hockey League game with Helsinki.

Storm face the Finnish giants at the MEN Arena on the back of an eight-match winning streak which has taken them to the last eight of the Benson and Hedges Cup and to the top of the Superleague table after just three games.

But Manchester, grouped in Division B with the crack Czech outfit, Sparta Prague, and the Swedish side Brynas, are given little chance of upsetting a heavily favoured Helsinki side.

Helsinki's pedigree is such that the five players who all left the club in the summer joined the elite National Hockey League, but Kleinendorst refuses to be overawed.

"We go into the game without a whole lot of pressure on us," said Kleinendorst.

"Nobody is expecting us to get a positive result against what is one of the best teams outside of the NHL.

"But I believe they've a chink in their armour because I think they are vulnerable in defence - and we've got good momentum going into this one.

"But we have to be as good as we possibly can because we don't have many mistakes to play with."

Kleinendorst has the luxury of a full squad to pick from, with the exception of Kelly Askew, who is out with a knee injury.

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