By Kris Smith
Stars blew a late lead and were punished for a mistake in overtime by Steelers, ending their winning run at six games.
The Kitmart Dundee Stars were only without Jordan Kelsall while Sheffield Steelers scratched David Phillips, Brad Day and Eric Neiley.
Sheffield’s Ryan Martinelli had the first big chance as he forced a body save from Pontus Sjögren before at the other end, Dundee’s Matt Marquardt seen his shot denied by the shoulder of Matt Climie in the fourth minute. Stars had the best chances early on as Charles Corcoran was played through on a breakaway but he could not get his shot between the legs of Climie.
Dundee captain, Johan Andersson was battling away in the Steelers crease as the home side’s next opportunity to take the lead was squandered. Referee Steve Brown called the first penalty against Steelers’ Jonas Westerling after he caught François Bouchard in the face with his stick in the 8thminute. The Dundee powerplay unit were getting traffic to the net but they were unable to find the opening goal before the penalty expired.
Lukas Lundvald was the next Star to go close as he waited out the Steelers keeper but the Dane could not find the net form a tight angle. There was a big chance for Tom Barrasso’s men to breakaway down the ice after Anthony DeLuca created a turnover. However, he was immediately stopped in his tracks by young defenceman Kris Inglis, who stood up to the Sheffield forward.
From the Inglis block, the puck came to Marquardt and the winger almost slipped a shot past Climie but he used his glove to sweep it off the line. The Canadian goalie was then forced to stretch out to stop Andersson’s shot on target but still Omar Pacha’s men could not get the lead. The Yorkshire club pressured Dundee back in their own end but a glove save by Sjögren ended the Steelers chance.
The Tayside team had a few more chances but all were stopped by Climie before a final effort went straight across the face of goal. Inside the final minute of the first period, Lundvald fed a pass in front of the Sheffield goal to Hart but his quick shot bounced off Climie’s pad before the American centre got a second chance.
Although a poor connection with the pass sent the shot looping over the net. A scoreless first stanza gave both teams a chance to make a statement in the next period.
Stars quickly returned to their offensive ways before Sheffield won possession, Martinelli fired a big shot but it was held by Sjögren. The play went the other way as Bouchard had a golden chance in front of goal but attempted to drop a pass to the arriving Jordan Cownie, however the pass was off its mark.
Matt Bissonnette nearly gave Dundee the lead as he sent a low shot through the crease of Climie’s goal before the home side continued to test the Sheffield netminder. Pacha’s men were still unable to break the deadlock after the halfway mark. Justin Buzzeo was gifted a chance to breakaway but Inglis and Corcoran reacted swiftly to take away the chance from the Steeler.
Shortly after that, Stars were given another chance on the man advantage as Buzzeo was boxed for tripping after 37minutes. After a failed attempt to hit a moving shot first-time, Lundvald circled back and played a pass across to Bouchard and his first-time effort was enough to beat Climie and give Stars the lead in the 38thminute.
Less than a minute later, Sheffield thought they had responded but after a review, the goal was not given, referee Toby Craig spotted that the goal frame had been lifted off the ice. In the final second of the second period, a good save by Sjögren, on his post kept out Ben O’Connor shot before a heated exchange broke out.
Stefan Della Rovere and Stars defenceman Petr Chaloupka shared some words and shoves after the whistle and both were boxed for roughing with less than a second remaining in the middle period. Evan McGrath was also put in the penalty box for the same offence and that left Dundee on a powerplay that would span into the final period.
Again, Stars started the period on the attack, Shawn Boutin played a lofted pass to Cownie but he turned the puck just wide just wide of goal. The visitors extended their time on the penalty kill when Aaron Johnson was penalised for interference in the 42nd minute.
Sheffield retuned to four skaters before Hart was again found in front of goal but Climie closed him down to deny the centreman again. The visitors eventually returned to full strength and seconds after, O’Connor seen his slapshot beaten away by the Stars keeper. Steelers were pressuring the Dundee defence but they continued to prevail.
Sjögren came out of his goal to break-up an attack but after making the poke-check the loose puck was floating in mid-air, luckily for Dundee it landed safely in the Swede’s glove. With less than 10 minutes left to play, Barrasso’s side were still searching for their opening goal. Meanwhile Stars came close to grabbing a second, Cownie and Fabrizio Ricci had a two-on-two opportunity but there was no option for Cownie to pass and the chance was wasted.
However, the home team quickly regained possession and after making the first stop Climie was down and out. Bissonnette took possession of the puck but he opted not to shoot and passed to Bouchard who lifted the puck high into the net, doubling Dundee’s lead in the 53rdminute.
The English side were quickly given a chance to respond as Andersson was called for hooking in the 54thminute. Sheffield threw quite a few shots on Sjögren but the Stars goalie stopped all of them bar Jonathan Phillip’s shot that came off the crossbar before the powerplay ended.
Barrasso pulled the keeper with a few minutes remaining, but Stars broke up the attacks well and forced Sheffield to keep coming back at them. The Steelers coach then called out a timeout with 1:45 left on the clock. With just 66 seconds left in the game, McGrath managed to sneak a shot past Sjögren and get his side on the board before a long shot from Westerling at the blueline was redirected past the Dundee goalie by O’Connor, with 30 seconds remaining.
Dundee held on until overtime, although after just 38 seconds of extra time, Sheffield found a winner. A bad line change left one Stars player stranded with two Steelers closing in and the puck was chipped out to Buzzeo and he beat Sjögren on the glove side to win the game and end Stars winning streak.
‘Man, of the Match’ awards went to Sheffield goalie, Matt Climie and Dundee’s only scorer François Bouchard. Omar Pacha now has to take his side to Belfast on Tuesday for the second leg of the Challenge Cup quarter-finals.