By Kris Smith
The Stars ended their long run of road games with a 3-2 shootout loss against Belfast Giants on Wednesday night, as despite their short-bench, they battled hard to force the Champions Hockey League contenders all the way to penalty shots.
Ben Sokay scored twice on the powerplay in the second period to draw Dundee level each time and they then put in a solid defensive effort to force the game to extra time, but the Tayside team still created plenty of chances to win the match.
Sokay, Romans Semjonovs, Elijiah Barriga and Fabrizio Ricci all failed to score in the shootout, while Anton Svensson stopped two out of the four penalties he faced, but the Stars now have a chance to put home ice back to their advantage, when they take on the Flames for a second time in a week.
Last Sunday saw Paul Dixon’s Guildford team skate to a 6-3 victory in Surrey over Dundee and they quickly ran out into a 4-0 lead before the end of the first period.
Mike Crocock, Ian McNulty, Robert Lachowicz and Bradley Lalonde all found the back of Francis Marotte’s net, in the opening 16 minutes, before Kris Inglis got the Stars off the mark.
However, Ryan Tait restored Guildford’s four-goal advantage before Chris Gerrie and Sokay both netted in the third period to cut the lead to two, with only eight minutes remaining, but Sam Marklund would score into an empty net to seal the win for the English club and keep them at the summit of the league table.
Just as their injury troubles looked to have been clearing up, Dundee will likely still be without defenseman Colin Joe and forward, Philippe Sanche for the weekend, but defender, Erik Näslund will also miss the next three matches after he was suspended for kneeing against Belfast, on Wednesday.
Discussing his side’s performance mid-week and what he hopes to take from this weekend, Stars Head Coach, Jeff Mason said: “I really liked our effort, we were short-benched and we battled hard.
“Our special teams were massive for us and whilst I am happy to come away with the point, I felt like we had opportunities to get two points.
“So, it is encouraging that we are in that position and hopefully next time, we find a way to come away with two.”
He continued: “We saw that Guildford are a team with a lot of speed and skill, they are a highly offensive team, so we have to be dialled in defensively and make sure we are using our feet, but we certainly have to start the game much better.
“I though last week that we played better in the second and third periods, and we battled back and it was quite an even game but our start killed us.
“So, we need to make sure we come out and start fast, one thing we have been talking about is trying to play from the front, because we have not scored first in a lot of games this year.
“That is a main focus for us, trying to get out and score that first goal and play from the front.”
With his side set to be short-benched again this weekend, the American coach added: “It is something that we have been dealing with all year, we have been short-benched all season and it does not seem to change for us.
“That said, it is an opportunity for guys to slide into those spots and nobody cares at the end of the year, because nobody will feel bad for us, so we just have to find a way to get the points.”
Recently returned forward, Sokay scored three goals in the last two games as he played his first full matches of the season, last weekend and looking ahead to tonight’s contest, he added: “We are feeling good coming off that tough road stretch there and we definitely feel like we owe Guildford, we had a tough start to that game, so hopefully we can do the opposite tonight.
“We took a good point on the road against Belfast and unfortunately, we could not get the win, but we are due one now and it should be a good game tonight.”
With the Flames facing the long trip north to Scotland, Sokay also commented: “It is never easy coming off the bus and right into a game, so we have to take advantage of that, come out flying and hopefully get a few in the net quickly.”
Ben also shared his delight to find some scoring form so quickly, after missing the first 15 competitive matches of the year, he said: “I just tried to keep it simple after coming back from injury and I just wanted to do my job and I was lucky enough that they were going in for me.
“Credit to my teammates as well, they were getting in good spots and I had a couple open nets, which was nice, but I will just be keeping it simple, working hard and hopefully getting rewarded.”
Face-off is at 7pm for tonight’s Halloween home game, you can purchase tickets HERE.
Our limited edition Halloween jerseys will be auctioned off in between the first and second periods at tonight’s game in the big bar upstairs and possibly after the game if there are still jerseys yet to be auctioned. Payment can be taken on the night or at the next home game.
All images: Derek Black.