By Kris Smith
Dundee Stars came up short in Manchester as they suffered another blow to their playoff hopes.
Stars travelled down to Manchester with the same line-up they had in Sunday’s 4-1 win over Fife, meanwhile the Storm were missing seven players from their roster, including their two suspended imports.
The home side did not get the start they wanted as after just eight seconds, they were in penalty trouble. Ciaran Long was called for a tripping foul but Dundee failed to punish Manchester’s poor discipline early on. The teams went back and forth for most of the first period with both goaltenders coming out on top.
Matt Marquardt had a great chance to give Stars the lead as he got into the attacking zone ahead of the Manchester defence but a good glove save from Matt Ginn kept the game scoreless. The Dundee winger was next to head to the box as a questionable high-sticking call came against him in the 13th minute to give the Altrincham club their first man advantage.
Ryan Finnerty’s powerplay unit also failed to click early on but once they were back to full strength, Stars created a few golden opportunities to take the lead. However, Ginn produced some outstanding saves to keep the visitors off the scoresheet.
Omar Pacha’s Stars were handed another opportunity on the powerplay late in the first period as Mike Hammond was boxed for slashing. The deadlock could not be broken before the first intermission.
However, in the second period, a dangerous turnover in the Dundee end almost seen Manchester take the lead. Despite Pontus Sjögren keeping out all their attempts, the Swede was not able to stop Hammond’s shot going into the top corner of his near post in the 23rd minute.
Just over a minute later, a too-many men penalty came against Dundee but they did manage to kill it off before they conceded again. Former Star, Riley Stadel netted his fifth goal of the season and his fourth against his former club. The defender drifted in from the blueline before letting a fast wrist shot go and it flew into the net in the 27th minute.
Another questionable call came against Dundee as captain, Johan Andersson was penalised for a slashing foul, despite no protests from the opposition after 30 minutes. Again, they killed it off before gaining a man advantage for themselves as Shane Bakker was deemed guilty of interference in the 34th minute.
21 seconds after the penalty concluded, Chris Auger made it 3-0 to the home team as he redirected a shot past Sjögren from close range.
Dundee needed a response and they got it through Marquardt as he forced a turnover before seeing his first shot saved but the Canadian easily netted on his own rebound to get Stars on the board in the 37th minute.
Manchester’s Declan Balmer was next to sit in the sin bin as he was called for slashing in the 38th minute. Less than one minute into the powerplay, Brian Hart got the Taysiders back to within one-goal as he found the twine with a quick shot from between the circles.
The third period was similar to the first with a lack of goals and the action going back and forth. Dundee wasted another powerplay as Felix-Antoine Poulin was boxed for an interference penalty in the 55th minute.
Both sides used their timeouts and Stars pulled their netminder inside the final two minutes as they searched for that game-changing goal but it never came as Manchester held onto to claim their first win in six games.
Riley Stadel and Dundee’s Matt Marquardt were highlighted as ‘Man of the Match’ award winners.
With the Storm now a point behind Stars, Saturday’s game against Fife Flyers is now an exceptionally important must-win game.