PREMIER SPORTS ELITE LEAGUE PLAYOFF SEMI-FINALS: BELFAST GIANTS 6 KITMART DUNDEE STARS 0
On Saturday night in Nottingham, the Kitmart Dundee Stars had their chance to make history and reach the Grand Final of the Premier Sports Playoffs for the first time in the club’s history.
By Kris Smith
The Stars iced a full line-up with Spencer Dorowicz and Craig Garrigan returning from injury and Quinn O’Brien and Caly Robertson were the two scratches.
Dundee got the match off to a quick start and wasted no time in bearing down on goal, with Charlie Combs directing the first shot on target into the glove of Giants goalie, Tyler Beskorowany.
The Stars then continued to cause the reigning Elite League and Challenge Cup Champions trouble as Combs and his line mates, Timi Lahtinen and Sebastian Bengtsson created numerous dangerous chances inside the opening three minutes.
However, Belfast soon found their stride and started to test Adam Morrison in the Dundee goal but neither side would allow an early goal to derail their plans.
The middle part of the opening period was a hard-fought physical battle for every touch of the puck and both sides were working hard to find the opener.
Eventually the first goal of the night came on 14 minutes, as Mark Cooper intercepted a blind pass from Combs and rushed forward.
The Giants attacker quickly got in behind the Stars defence and when one-on-one with Morrison, Cooper delayed his shot before burying it, to give the Northern Irish side the first lead.
Dundee immediately came back at Belfast and were pushing for their equaliser, forcing Beskorowany to freeze the puck on multiple occasions.
Omar Pacha’s men got a few good looks but the Giants did just enough to stop them getting any clean shots off and the first period ended with Adam Keefe’s side still leading by a lone-goal.
Although, the second period saw the Giants hit the Stars hard as they moved two-goals ahead after only 63 seconds, with Cooper scoring another and this time he got his shot over the shoulder of Morrison from right wing.
Dundee were then handed two opportunities on the powerplay and a chance to get back into the game, but Belfast satyed strong to keep the Stars out and Cooper then rewarded his teammates efforts by scoring his hat-trick.
This time Cooper made a late move across goal and got a strong touch on Ciaran Long’s shot to send it into the bottom left corner of the Stars goal in the 29th minute.
The Tayside team then had to kill a penalty of their own and just as they returned to full strength, Tyler Soy was on hand to fire home the drop pass from Jordan Boucher and that made it 4-0, on 37 minutes.
Pacha needed his players to produce another miracle comeback like they did six days ago, but they had left themselves with a heavy workload heading into the final period.
The Stars did continue to try and battle back but their efforts were to no avail as Lewis Hook converted on the powerplay to make it 5-0 in the 51st minute and then David Goodwin added another powerplay marker in the final two minutes, to end the scoring at 6-0.
It was not the afternoon the Stars would have wanted and it was always going to be a tough test against the incomparable Giants but it has given them and their fans a taste of what is possible.
Dundee now face the losers of Semi-Final 2 at 1pm tomorrow in the 3rd/4th place match and they could face either Cardiff Devils or Guildford Flames.
Man of the Match
Dundee: #21 Sebastian Bengtsson
Belfast: #26 Mark Cooper
1-0 Mark Cooper (Unassisted) 14:22
2-0 Mark Cooper (Ben Lake) 21:03
3-0 Mark Cooper (Ciaran Long, Sam Ruopp) 28:47
4-0 Tyler Soy (Jordan Boucher) 37:33
5-0 Lewis Hook (Unassisted) 50:08 PPG
6-0 David Goodwin (Mark Cooper) 58:02 PPG
All images: Derek Black.