By Kris Smith
Dundee Stars rounded off the year with a 3-2 away victory against the league leaders, Belfast Giants.
Matt Bissonnette remained on the injury list for Dundee and Belfast did not ice five of their players.
The home side pressured Stars right from the start before they took the lead after Kyle Baun delayed his cut back to Dustin Johner and the Giants forward put it past Pontus Sjögren in the third minute. Charles Corcoran almost drew Dundee level immediately as he jabbed away at a loose puck under Belfast goalie, Tyler Beskorowany but a whistle ended the chance.
A slashing penalty against David Rutherford gave Omar Pacha’s Stars a chance to draw level in the seventh minute. However, the Giants penalty killing unit were in fine form and soon the chance expired.
Belfast added a second goal as Blair Riley linked up with Darcy Murphy and Murphy got ahead of the Stars defence before redirecting the puck past the Dundee goalie in the ninth minute.
20 seconds later, another foul by the Giants left Jonathan Boxhill in the penalty box for interference in the ninth minute. Dundee got off the mark thanks to Corcoran as he moved in on the Giants goal before lifting a shot over Beskorowany in the 13th minute.
After 16 minutes, Fabrizio Ricci took Dundee’s first penalty as a high-sticking call left the forward out of action for two minutes. Murphy was the next to head to the sin bin as a holding call against the Belfast winger gave Stars a chance to tie the game in the final minutes of the first period.
It did not take long before Brian Hart drew them level and with just 22 seconds left on the clock, the American forward slotted home from the edge of the Belfast goal crease. Adam Keefe’s men had an opportunity to re-take the lead early in the second period but Johner failed to hit the target whilst on a breakaway.
Both sides exchanged chances for most of the period but a late powerplay for the home team gave them another opportunity to get back in front before heading into the second intermission. Dundee defenceman Connor Cox was guilty of a tripping infraction with 100 seconds to go in the middle period.
Dundee were then given their next chance on the man advantage in the 46th minute as Jim Vandermeer, who was playing his 1000th career game, picked up cross-checking and abuse of official minor penalties. This left Dundee on a four-minute powerplay but they could not use the extra skater advantage to take the lead.
Dundee’s Drydn Dow showed some strong defensive skills to take away a chance from Murphy who was through on the Dundee goal. Stars took the lead as Hart bagged a brace with a low shot that beat Beskorowany on his blocker in the 52nd minute.
Inside the final five minutes of the game, Cox headed back to the box for a tripping offence but for a fourth straight time, Dundee’s defence denied the Giants of a powerplay goal.
Patrick Dwyer came close to equalising for Belfast but his shot hit Sjögren in the head before falling wide of the goal and they came close again but the puck was lost under the Dundee goaltender. The chances were reviewed with goal line technology but the score remained 3-2 to Dundee.
Curtis Leonard rattled the crossbar in the final minutes as the home team pushed for a late goal and even removed their goalkeeper for an extra attacker but Pacha’s men held on to claim two valuable road points.
Stars rounded off 2018 with another bounce back performance and that meant Dundee went into 2019 in the seventh play-off spot. Their first game in the New Year is against Glasgow Clan on January 2.