By Kris Smith
Stars fell to a late powerplay strike from Belfast after an action packed sixty minutes where Dundee never gave up.
Malcolm Gould had the game’s first shot but it was an easy save for the Giants netminder, Jackson Whistle. Stars were doing well to pin the Giants in their own end before Gabriel Lévesque forced a puck into the pads of Whistle but it went no further. Dundee got quite a few shots on Whistle in the opening five minutes.
David Rutherford was looking to send a pass to Blair Riley at backdoor but the Giants’ forward could not get a clean pass through to his teammate. Stars got the first powerplay of the evening as Cole Jarret sat for two minutes on an interference call in the seventh minute.
The Belfast goalie made some outstanding saves as the road team were constantly hammering shots at the Canadian. Adam Keefe’s men killed off the penalty before Steve Saviano hit the crossbar after beating Travis Fullerton with a backhanded shot.
Cody Carlson picked up a slashing penalty whilst trying to prevent Saviano as Dundee went on the penalty kill but it soon became a 5-on-3 kill after Omar Pacha was penalised for tripping in the tenth minute.
Some good saves from Fullerton and big clears by the defence kept the Giants at bay as Dundee continued to stamp out any offensive productivity from Belfast. Dundee’s dominance was finally rewarded when a brilliant shot from Adam Harding found the net after Jordan Cownie fed a pass to the Welshman. Harding’s shot the puck past the screened Whistle at 14:03.
Fullerton denied Jonathon Ferland, after he drove the puck around the front of goal as the Dundee goalie got low and made the stop. Lukas Lundvald made a big hit on Spiro Goulakos and that drew a reaction from both Ferland and Goulakos.
Stars came away with a 5-on-3 powerplay and had a chance to extend their lead. They did well to keep possession and eventually get a shot through but it was held by Whistle. Chris Lawrence picked up a hooking penalty and that made it a 4-on-3 situation as the Stars Captain sat for two minutes with twenty-four seconds left in the first.
Dundee started off the second period with another good penalty kill. However, after some scrappy play, a bad pass fell to Brendan Connolly and he quickly shot the puck through the five-hole of Fullerton at 24:37.
It was clear Stars were eager to get back into the game and they were helped out by their goalie, Fullerton after he denied Goulakos’ slapshot as the Giants awoke. Lundvald made a great move forward but could not beat the Belfast stopper and the rebound was quickly cleared away by the home team.
Dundee were creating turnovers all over the ice and that led to an offensive attack that seen Harding and Carlson denied three times, before the Tayside team got another penalty.
It did not take long for the Giants to capitalise on the man advantage as Connolly grabbed his second goal of the night with a quick shot over the blocker of Fullerton at 30:33.
Omar Pacha will have been delighted with his side’s response as seventy seconds later, Jimmy Jensen took the puck from the halfway line and fired a shot off the crossbar and down into the net.
Stars almost took the lead as a result of Brian Hart’s efforts; his shot went right across the face of goal but no one could poke it home. Although Belfast didn’t not lack the critical finish and at the other end, a turnover behind the net gave possession to Dustin Johner and he played the puck in front to Darcy Murphy. The Canadian deked it around Fullerton to restore the Northern Irish side’s lead at 32:48.
Stars captain, Lawrence returned to the box for cross-checking in the thirty-forth minute as Keefe’s men had a chance to utilise the man advantage once more, however despite heavy pressure from the Giants, Dundee held out for the two minutes.
There was a big chance for Connolly to score his hat-trick goal after a loose puck went through the empty Dundee crease but it was quickly cleared away by the Stars defence. The road team were attacking well and picked up their third powerplay of the evening as Jarret was penalised for interference.
Although, moments later Goulakos was given a cross-checking penalty, putting Dundee on a 5-on-3 powerplay. He was also assessed a minor penalty for abuse of an official making his time in the box double to four minutes.
Stars were working the puck around well before a quick pass out in front to Anthony Mastrodicasa seen the defenceman release a rapid one-timer that Whistle had no chance of stopping and it tied the game at 3-3 after 39:44.
Dundee started the final period with a huge three-minute man advantage as the Goulakos penalties carried over. Marc-Olivier Mimar seen his first shot saved before he tried to bank it off Whistle but the Belfast keeper held it between his pads, after some strong attacking play by Stars.
The penalty expired with the game still tied at 3-3 and Fullerton was forced into action as Kevin Raine pulled a good move before releasing a quick shot but it could not beat the Dundee shot stopper. Hart then made an excellent defensive play as he got his stick in the way of Connolly’s shot to deflect it out of play and rob the Giants’ forward of his hat-trick once more.
Carlson picked up a roughing penalty after retaliating to a check in the corner and that teed Belfast up for a second powerplay goal, this time Rutherford sent it to the tape of Riley and he redirected it into the far side of the net at 48:37. Lawrence was then denied after pulling a great move, as the Toronto-born forward spun in front of Whistle, forcing another tremendous save from the Canadian.
Giants picked up a seventh penalty to give Dundee another chance to tie the game up, Stars’ best chance came when Lévesque sent a pass across the crease to Lawrence but despite the captain getting a big enough touch to send the puck goal-ward, Whistle managed to get his leg down to block the shot.
Just as Riley was released from the box, Hart was picked out by Gould, as the American stood alone in front of goal and shot the puck around Whistle but it hit the post and luckily bounced straight out to Jensen, who put it across the line at 53:14.
Mastrodicasa was charged with holding with 3:15 left on the clock and Dundee had to kill off the penalty if they wanted any points from the game they had worked so hard to stay in. The Giants worked the puck around the goal and it came to Rutherford, he then slid a pass between two closing Dundee players and Murphy was there, waiting at the backdoor to shoot it home. Belfast took a 5-4 lead with their third powerplay goal of the night at 57:39.
With Fullerton pulled from the goal, Stars came so close to equalising once more but Connolly intercepted a pass before shooting the puck the length of the ice and into the open goal with twenty-eight seconds left. His hat-trick sealed the win for Belfast.
Connolly picked up his first ‘Man of the Match’ award this season, with Jimmy Jensen collecting the accolade for Dundee. Omar Pacha now has two days left to prepare his side for this weekend’s double-header with rivals, Fife Flyers, as Dundee look for continued success in 2018 against their Auld rivals.
Photo: William Cherry/ Press Eye