By Kris Smith
Stars once again came close to the win but lost their lead in a tight defeat to Belfast on the road.
Dundee’s Lukas Lundvald made his return to the line-up after a two-game absence, while Matt Bissonnette remains on the side-lines. Belfast welcomed back goalkeeper, Tyler Beskorowany but Matt Towe, Francis Beauvillier and Andrew Dickson did not dress.
Omar Pacha would have been frustrated to be shorthanded after just 50 seconds on a too-many men call. They started off with an excellent kill before taking the lead through Matt Marquardt, he received a cross-ice pass from Brian Hart on the left wing before lifting his shot over the blocker of Beskorowany at 4:30.
Belfast almost drew level instantly as a mass scramble in the Dundee goal mouth caused a whistle from the referee after the puck was lost from sight. Stars were back on the penalty kill after a hooking infraction was spotted and Charlie Corcoran sat for two minutes.
Once again Dundee killed well and were continuing to test Belfast’s defences with their quick counter attacks. Adam Keefe’s men were not getting a lot of chances to set-up in Dundee’s end but they were handed their third powerplay in the 14th minute as Dundee goalie, Pontus Sjögren was given a roughing penalty.
The home side had a few good chances that included hitting the crossbar but the Stars held strong to keep their one goal lead going into the first break.
Belfast started off well in the second but Sjögren started better, denying his opposition twice from point blank range. Stars Czech defenceman, Petr Chaloupka made an excellent play to break up a 2-on-1 break for the Giants, as the Northern Irish side continued their hungry start.
Dundee got their first powerplay of the game when Dustin Johner sat for two minutes after being penalised for interference in the 27th minute. Lundvald’s shot off the crossbar was the closest Stars got to beating Beskorowany before their powerplay expired.
Just before the halfway mark, Mike Sullivan picked up a delay of game penalty after the puck touched the safety net behind the Stars goal, although despite uncertainty between the officials, the penalty was given.
Omar Pacha’s penalty killing unit maintained their perfect record and shortly after the penalty expired, Sjögren batted away a dangerous flying puck that had been deflected up in front of his goal. Giants were back on the powerplay when Chaloupka was boxed for interference in the 35th minute but it soon became a 4-on-4 situation when Darcy murphy was called for a tripping infraction.
With the final minute of the second period approaching, Mark Garside fired a high shot that deflected off of the glove of Sullivan and that was enough to deceive Sjögren and the puck fell into the back of the Dundee goal at 38:55.
Belfast almost had the lead going into the final break but Sjögren made a good double save after the first shot came off his post. The Swede made a diving save before recovering to stop the third effort and keep the game tied at 1-1.
Stars got an early chance in the third period as Garside was boxed for interference in the 44th. Charlie Corcoran was unlucky to see his effort saved before the Giants returned to full strength. Stars’ Brian Hart was then denied twice from point blank range before on the following face-off, the Dundee captain, Johan Andersson was penalised for a face-off violation in the 47th minute.
Belfast’s powerplay did not last long as a penalty was given against Murphy for tripping, although both penalties were seen off to keep both teams killing percentage at its maximum on the night. Murphy was given a good chance to score after being released from the sin bin but the Stars defence were quick to pressure the Giant and his shot was off target.
Jim Vandermeer was next to be added to the growing penalty list, as he was deemed guilty of cross-checking in the 53rd minute. Yet again the powerplay was killed off by the hosts and moments later they took the lead, a pass from behind the goal found Garside but his effort was blocked. Kyle Baun followed up on the rebound and found the twine at 56:19.
Adam Keefe’s men held onto their tight lead for the final minutes to claim their first league win and hand Stars their second loss of the week.
The teams swap places as Dundee host Belfast tonight in what will be another thrilling encounter that will face-off at 7pm.