By Kris Smith
The Kitmart Dundee Stars pushed the Belfast Giants all the way until the final buzzer as they were beaten 6-4 in a game that could win the league title for the Giants.
Dundee continued to ice a full squad and Belfast were only missing a few spare players. It was also Scottish forward, Colin Shields last regular season home game before retirement and he was honoured by both teams and sets of fans.
Darcy Murphy gave the home team the lead after just 52 seconds as he fired a quick shot over the glove of Pontus Sjögren and into the top corner of the goal. Dundee were quick to respond as Charles Corcoran hit Fabrizio Ricci’s pass, from behind the goal, first-time and sent it through the legs of Tyler Beskorowany after five minutes of play.
However, the Giants quickly stormed ahead into a 3-1 lead. Jonathan Boxhill finished off a rebound from Dustin Johner’s shot in the ninth minute before Kyle Baun collected his own rebound and tucked it past Sjögren 38 seconds later.
Omar Pacha’s men had only pride to play for and they did not let that stop them from posing a threat to the Northern Irish club’s title hopes. Matt Marquardt made it 3-2 in the 14th minute as the winger smashed the puck past Beskorowany. The goal stemmed from the good work done by Ricci as he avoided several Giants after entering the offensive zone before squaring a pass to Marquardt.
The game was tied up a few minutes later as Jordan Cownie managed to redirect Drydn Dow’s slapshot. The puck was sent through the legs of Beskorowany but despite the Canadian goalie squeezing them shut, the puck slipped out and across the line.
The second period was a much closer affair but it was the home team who went in front again. Murphy netted his second after ripping a fast shot just inside the post in the 28th minute but after a lot of penalty trouble that seen both penalty killing unit’s come out on top, Stars levelled the score again. Corcoran scored his second and Dundee’s fourth of the night.
The American turned in a rebound after some good passing play by Stars that worked Beskorowany from side-to-side in the 38th minute.
Just before the goal, the Tayside team had a shorthanded chance but Beskorowany bailed out Belfast. Dundee created a turnover on the Giants blue line and Johan Andersson collected the puck and waited for support. The Swede squared a pass to Ricci but the Belfast goaltender recovered just in time to snatch up the puck with his glove.
With it all on the line in the third period, Belfast found a new gear and created numerous chances. Patrick Dwyer restored their lead in the 47th minute after tapping in a rebound at the back post. Dundee did not give up and pushed the Giants right until the end. With Dundee on the penalty kill and Sjögren swapped for an extra attacker, Baun put the puck into the empty net just eight seconds from full-time.
The 6-4 win keeps Belfast at the top of the league with all their games played. The title will be decided on Sunday when Cardiff Devils visit Coventry Blaze. Dundee are back in action tomorrow as well, they round off the 2018/19 campaign in Guildford as they aim to end their season on a high.