By Kris Smith
The Kitmart Dundee Stars and the Belfast Giants could not be separated after the first 20 minutes as the two teams challenging for first place in Group A of the Challenge Cup remained locked at 1-1.
There had been some early pressure by Belfast in the opening five minutes but Dundee netminder, Alex Leclerc was on top form and denied the visitors of an early goal.
However, after a lot of back and forth play, Adam Keefe’s side made the first breakthrough as Jean Dupuy sent a pass across to Bobby Farnham but the pass was returned and Dupuy quickly pushed it into a gaping goal.
Omar Pacha’s men did not rest on their laurels and they were straight on the attack with Anthony Beauregard and Elgin Pearce creating the most dangerous opportunities.
The Stars did finally draw themselves level after looking dangerous for a long time and it was the Elite League’s Player of the Month, Kevin Dufour who tied the game.
The Canadian sniper made it 1-1 on 17 minutes as he dispatched the puck through the legs of Shane Owen after slipping past the Belfast defenders.
Although, the Tayside team quickly found themselves on the penalty kill as Craig Gans was called for interference after he obstructed the path of Curtis Leonard.
The second period did not start the way Dundee wanted it to as the Giants were back in front inside 23 minutes.
This time it was Ben Lake who sent the puck past Leclerc as he managed to flick Jordan Smotherman’s pass up into the top left corner before it dropped into the Stars net.
However, the home fans were left delighted as Duncan Speirs equalised for the Stars less than two minutes later.
An intelligent and selfless play by Beauregard created the goal as he decided to pass the puck across the face of the Belfast net, despite having the chance to shoot himself.
Yet the Canadian centreman picked out Speirs who had a wide-open net to fire at from the backdoor.
There was then a first powerplay chance for Dundee as Lewis Hook was penalised for a tripping foul on Shawn Boutin but the Northern Irish penalty killers were defensively solid.
Another man advantage was presented to the Stars as Smotherman’s high hit on Elgin Pearce earned him a two plus 10 penalty for checking to the head, as his elbow caught the side of Pearce’s helmet.
The home team’s powerplay unit continued to be frustrated by the Giants penalty killers and they could not put themselves in front before the next intermission, despite having another two powerplays.
Belfast picked up two back-to-back penalties for having too-many men on the ice and both were served by Ciaran Long but the second foul was called inside the final two minutes, meaning that Keefe would have to start the third period a man down.
Again, it was the Giants who would take the lead as Curtis Hamilton put his team back in front on 46 minutes.
The Belfast defenseman snuck a shot through the legs of Leclerc from a narrow angle as he took possession from the face-off before skating towards the goal line and firing a low shot that found its way into the Dundee net.
Following their go-ahead goal, it was all Belfast for a short period of time but inside the last 10 minutes, the Stars were heavily pushing for a third game-tying-goal.
A sixth goal of the game did eventually come and it went to the Stars after they worked the puck all around the Belfast zone.
The long period of possession culminated in Boutin passing the puck to Colton Kroeker, who was waiting in front of goal and he wasted no time before rifling a shot from the point straight over the shoulder of Owen in the 55th minute.
Minutes later, the home fans at the Dundee Ice Arena were sent into euphoria as Kroeker tipped in what proved be the game-winning-goal.
Stars forward, Egils Kalns had circled with possession around the Giants end inside the final two minutes of the game and with defenders closing in, the Latvian let rip a shot that was met by the rising stick of Kroeker.
After a review of the play, as officials judged whether Kroeker’s stick had made contact with the puck above crossbar height, the goal was given to all the Dundonians delight.
With 90 seconds left to play Keefe yanked his goaltender and threw out an extra skater but the Stars stayed strong to seal the victory.
Man of the Match:
Dundee: #21 Colton Kroeker
Belfast: #70 Curtis Hamilton
0-1 Dupuy (Farnham) 08:34
1-1 Dufour (Inglis, Maylan) 17:08
1-2 Lake (Smotherman, Wronka) 22:45
2-2 Speirs (Beauregard, Marquardt) 24:12
2-3 Hamilton (Ward, Morgan) 45:55
3-3 Kroeker (Boutin, Gans) 55:13
4-3 Kroeker (Kalns, Gans) 58:02