By Kris Smith
The Stars went down to Sheffield last night and snatched a late goal to give them a narrow advantage to take back to Dundee for tonight’s second leg and they are now only 60 minutes away from making their return to the Final Four Weekend for the first time since 2017.
After a scoreless first two periods, the two teams had kept digging away trying to find the opening goal and eventually the Stars found a way to break the deadlock with less than three minutes to play.
Forward, Charlie Combs had played a key role in creating the goal, as he played the puck deep into the Sheffield zone before taking out two Steelers players with one hit.
Finnish winger, Timi Lahtinen then recovered possession from the right corner and moved towards goal, where he then squared a pass across to Sebastian Bengtsson, who was waiting at the back post.
The Swede beat Barry Brust with a quick shot back across goal into the far side of the net and sent the travelling Dundee fans into ascendancy.
After recording a 32-save shutout in the Utilita Arena last night, Adam Morrison is likely to start between the pipes for Dundee again tonight, whilst Aaron Fox may turn to the rested, Rok Stojanovic for this leg.
Forwards, Craig Garrigan and Quinn O’Brien were the only Stars missing from the line-up on Saturday night, as the pair sat out through injury.
Meanwhile, Sheffield were without Vojtech Polak, Brendan Connolly, Daine Todd, Cole Shudra and Nico Feldner.
Speaking after last night’s match, Stars Head Coach, Omar Pacha said: “It is only half-time but to come in here (Sheffield) and get a lead to take back home is a massive result for us.
“But most importantly, I really liked our game tonight, the work ethic and the compete level were there.
“Both teams made it a playoff atmosphere and they both competed hard, everything was earned on the ice and we are fortunate enough to go back home with a lead.”
He continued: “Brust had some big saves, Mo (Morrison) had some big saves, truth be told, I thought those two guys had an incredible night.
“I felt we were skating with Sheffield, skating with speed, skating with energy and we were very physical, like Sheffield were as well.
“So, it is going to be interesting tomorrow and it was great a lot of our fans were here and I am sure it will be a record crowd tomorrow.
Pacha then addressed what his gameplan will be for tonight’s second leg on home ice.
He added: “We have to go in with the same mindset, play hard for 60 minutes and whatever happens, happens.
“As I said I liked our game and we did not change anything through 60 minutes, so it is kind of the same mindset again tomorrow.
“We have to aim to win a hockey game at home and then go from there.”
Face-off for tonight’s final home game is at 5pm.
(Picture: Dean Wooley/Sheffield Steelers).