By Kris Smith
Yesterday saw the Stars and the Giants battle out a closely fought Challenge Cup Group Stage contest in Belfast, as Dundee came from behind to open up three leads, but were pegged back every time.
Adam Keefe’s side netted the winner in overtime after the two teams were inseparable all game and now the Stars play their final group stage game and want to end on a high by taking both points this evening.
Last night saw Scott Conway put the Giants ahead with a deadly finish from close range, in the seventh minute, before Romans Semjonovs answered back for the Stars, by smashing Philippe Sanche’s pass from behind the goal, straight past Peyton Jones, on 13 minutes.
The two teams were still tied heading into the second period, but after only 18 seconds of play, Sanche put Dundee 2-1 in front, as he trailed behind the play and was able to poke home the rebound from Elijiah Barriga’s first attempt.
Then on the 30 minute-mark, Ciaran Long lasered his shot past the defending Barriga and Stars keeper, Anton Svensson as the puck flew straight into the top left corner, but the Tayside team, once again answered back.
With tensions starting to flare, an aggravated Long fouled Barriga whilst he was through on goal, resulting in a penalty shot for Dundee and Barriga took his time, before patiently waiting to shoot the puck over the left shoulder of Jones, restoring the Stars lead after 35 minutes.
Only four minutes of time had passed in the third period before the home side drew level once again and this time David Gilbert was waiting, just off the left post and swiftly buried Will Cullen’s pass into the Dundee net.
However, Jeff Mason’s men once again took the lead and this time, Sanche took Fabrizio Ricci’s knock down of Belfast pass and burst forward, where he faced only Jones and smoothly dispatched his shot past the Giants goalie, in the 50th minute.
Although, it took just only 31 seconds for the home team to find their third consecutive equaliser of the night, and their fourth goal came from Mark Cooper, who dragged a off-target shot from behind the net and whacked it past Svensson at the right post.
The two teams were still inseparable after 60 minutes, but the game-winning-goal would come after less than two minutes of overtime and Gilbert would net his second of the night to win the extra point for Belfast.
The Giants forward would position himself just in front of goal and as Belfast’s Gabe Bast rounded the Stars net, he picked out Gilbert, who shot straight across the Dundee keeper and into the far side of the netting.
Discussing yesterday’s match, Stars Head Coach, Mason said: “I thought it was a massive opportunity for us and unfortunately, we could not find a way to close that game out.
“We did a lot of good things in the game and obviously being able to continuing to claw back and establish leads was a big positive, so we will take the one point and it keeps us top of the group.
“However, we are still disappointed after a hard-fought game like that and that we could not manage to get the full two points.
“That is a really good hockey team and to be able to do that is a really good testament to our guys and as I said to them, they battled hard all night and if we can find a way to close those games out, then we will be very dangerous.
“Overall, I am very happy with effort and now we just need to turn it around and make sure we do the job on home ice.”
Forward, Romans Semjonovs opened the Stars account in Belfast both last night and in their preseason visit to the SSE Arena, and discussing the team’s timely scoring, he added: “I just tried to play my game, it does not matter who we play against, because we all just try to play our systems and follow our gameplan.”
Romans continued: “I thought we played well, we controlled the defensive zone all night and I liked how everyone of us played today, so we have to keep that going tomorrow as well.”
Face-off for tonight’s game is at 6:30pm and you can get your tickets HERE!
All images: William Cherry/Presseye.