By Kris Smith
Dundee Stars picked up two valuable points on Sunday with a thrilling 4-3 win over the Coventry Blaze.
It was a huge bounce back win for Dundee as they responded to a 4-2 loss in Manchester on Saturday night. Fabrizio Ricci and Jordan Cownie provided the Stars’ two goals but the Tayside team faced huge adversity after a controversial penalty caused netminder, Pontus Sjögren to be sent off.
The Stars were still without defenceman Connor Cox as he recovers from a head injury but Blaze were missing six players from their roster.
There was a penalty after 65 second as Dundee’s Shawn Boutin was penalised for holding but the Stars penalty killing unit made a strong start to the game. There were good chances for the home team on the counter-attack but the Blaze had dominated early possession.
A big opportunity for Stars to open the scoring was not taken by Matt Bissonnette before Coventry broke away down the other end but an important save by Sjögren kept the game scoreless. However, in the 11th minute, Jordan Cownie danced through the Blaze defence but lost his footing in the crease, although the puck came out to Fabrizio Ricci and he tapped it in to give Stars the lead.
Ricci was then involved in a fight with Ben Lake, a few minutes after the restart, a small exchanged had set the pair off during a stoppage but both landed heavy blows in a quick tilt. Lake headed to the Coventry dressing room for treatment and would later return. Following the fight, Danny Stewart’s Blaze continued to take a physical approach but it did not stop Dundee getting forward.
The opening scoring chance of the second period fell to Tim Crowder but his shot was deflected and the displaced, Sjögren recovered to grab it with his glove. Although, the West Midlands club continued to trouble the Stars, as a bad turnover in front of the Dundee goal was converted by Alex Forbes, to tie the game after 24 minutes.
Omar Pacha’s men responded to the goal with a full-out attack but the they could not restore their lead. However, it was the visitors who were nearly in front as a loose puck had to be cleared from the Dundee goal face. Forbes then had to be helped back to the bench after a hard but legal hit by Lukas Lundvald behind the Coventry net.
An overpowered Dundee shot went around the boards and sent Lake through on goal, he pulled up and sent a pass across goal but it deflected off the stick of Jordan Cownie and into the Stars net in the 33rd minute. Coventry were consistently testing the home team’s defensive unit and inside the final minute of the second period, Shawn Pauly punished another bad mistake.
The Dundee netminder lunged from his post to try and block a pass but Pauly quickly rifled a shot into the top corner.
The third period started with Lake being called for slashing after 52 seconds of play and shortly after, Nicolai Bryhnisveen was also penalised after a hooking foul, giving Stars a five-on-three powerplay.
However, just as Coventry returned to four skaters, Dundee made it 3-2 as Ricci was chopping away at a loose puck before eventually connecting and sending it into the roof of the net on the 43rd minute-mark.
Dundee began to dominate the play and with a delayed penalty against the visitors, Stars took full advantage and tied the game. Boutin fired in a slapshot from the blueline and Matt Marquardt was there to poke home the puck when it was loose between the legs of Matt Hackett in the 48th minute.
Stewart’s side were in penalty trouble again as Bryhnisveen returned to the box for interference and Pacha’s powerplay team punished the Blaze again. Ricci bagged his hat-trick after jamming away at another loose puck and he again was able to lift it into the net, after 50 minutes.
Coventry made use of their timeout and managed to settle things down again but it was Ricci’s night as he continued to pull the strings up front. The Canadian broke through one-on-one but this time put his shot just wide of Hackett’s goal.
Dillion Lawrence was trying to get his side back on level terms but Sjögren continued his solid display in the third and kept out the Canadian shot with five minutes left in the game.
Penalties became a constant delay to game as Jordan Kelsall and Coventry’s Alex Nikiforuk both picked up minors for holding and diving. Then the Blaze went on the powerplay as Petr Chaloupka was boxed for interference but it was the visitors who ended up down a man.
Pauly drew a penalty for goalie interference before Joyaux was called for delay of game, giving Dundee a five-on-three powerplay. However, no more goals would be added before the final buzzer as Dundee skated out 4-3 winners.
‘Man of the Match’ awards went to Shawn Pauly and Dundee’s hat-trick hero, Fabrizio Ricci. Stars are now back to within one-point of a playoff spot and face two tough games next week against Nottingham Panthers and Manchester Storm.