By Kris Smith
Stars looked to cause a huge upset as they faced a very strong Sheffield side who had overpowered them all season. Dundee were still without Anthony Mastrodicasa, Chris Lawrence and Johan Andersson, Ben Edmonds was still on international duty with Great Britain on GB, as were Steelers’ Liam Kirk, Cole Shudra and Kieran Brown. The injured Zack Fitzgerald did not travel with the team.
Sheffield stole the puck after the opening face-off and got the game’s first shot on goal after just a few seconds, the away team continued to put Stars under pressure. Tim Wallace then tried to tip a shot in from point blank range but it was met by the pads of Fullerton.
Steelers hounded the Dundee net with a lot of shots but not many hit the target. Adam Harding fired Dundee’s first shot but it went wide of the opposition net before Stars got the first powerplay of the night as Levi Nelson was penalised for high-sticks in the fifth minute.
Dundee had a few shots but they were easily saved by Ervins Mustukovs, Sheffield returned to full-strength and picked up a powerplay of their own as Joey De Concilys was charged with tripping in the seventh minute.
They had an early chance after quickly setting up but a shot from the blueline was tipped over the net. Dundee were in danger again after killing penalty as the puck bounced past Fullerton but it was quickly cleared by the defence.
Stars were playing well and breaking up the Steelers play but a great chance for Dundee to take the lead was stopped as the shot was tipped over by Mustukovs. A delayed penalty against Sheffield created some good pressure from the home side.
Once the powerplay begun it was not long before a well worked passing move around the zone set up Jordan Cownie to fling his shot past Mustukovs at 13:47 and Dundee had the lead against Sheffield for the first time this season.
Fullerton made a save with just his toe to stop the play as Sheffield went on the powerplay, it then became a 5-on-3 powerplay for Paul Thompson’s men and that resulted in a quick goal. A well worked move set up an easy pass to Jonas Westerling who redirected it across the line at 15:57.
It was a second goal for the Steelers as they found another quick goal to take the lead again on the powerplay. A shot from the hashmarks by Andreas Valdix found its way [past the Dundee goalie at 16:36. Dundee could not capitalise on another powerplay chance before the first period concluded, leaving the home side trailing 2-1.
Stars started the second period with good chances but none found the net and they were once again quickly on the man advantage. Sheffield did well to kill it off before getting their own powerplay, Steelers had a range of chances but the puck was swept off the line and Fullerton was there to make the second save.
A moment of magic from Ben O’Connor made it 3-1 to Sheffield as he pulled a flashy move before sliding the puck around Fullerton at 27:31. Harding then missed an opportunity to tip
it past Mustukovs from the edge of the crease before he almost went clean through the Steelers defence but was muscled off the puck.
They visitors almost extended their lead as they steal pickpocketed the Stars defence and started a 3-on-0 break but Fullerton bailed them out. Dundee were back on the powerplay when Malcolm Gould tried to sneak a shot in-between the post and Mustukovs but Taylor Dickin gave Dundee a lifeline after he pulled it around multiple defenceman before firing it past the netminder at 36:51.
Dundee had reduced the deficit to just one with twenty minutes left in the first leg and increased their chances of causing an upset.
Stars showed just how committed they were to the game as Marc-Olivier Mimar’s diving block prevented Sheffield from grabbing an early goal in the final period. Harding had another chance when he connected with the puck right in front of Mustukovs but the Sheffield goalie got down to cover the puck.
David Phillips drifted in late behind the play and fired the loose puck over the shoulder of Fullerton to restore the road teams two-goal cushion at 43:35. Levi Nelson then went around the net and fired high into the net to extend the lead to 5-2 at 44:24.
The Yorkshire club grabbed a sixth goal through Phillips, much to the anger of Fullerton before a fast move after the restart made it 7-2 through Matt Marquardt. ‘Man of the Match’ awards were given to Levi Nelson and Dundee’s Jordan Cownie.
A third period charge by Sheffield had put the odds heavily in their favour for the second leg next Tuesday in Yorkshire. Both clubs return to league action this weekend as Dundee face Edinburgh Capitals at home on Friday evening.