By Kris Smith
Stars were handed their second loss of the weekend after a hard-fought game against the defending champions.
Cardiff came to Tayside without Luke Piggott, Jordan Lawday, Toms Rutkis and Bryce Reddick in their line-up while Petr Chaloupka sat out for Dundee.
There was some early pressure from the defending champions but Stars were able to handle it. However, seconds later a defensive error by Dundee caused the puck to fall to the lurking Charles Linglet. He fired a low shot that slipped between the legs of Pontus Sjögren after just 62 seconds. Stars first real chance came in the 6thminute as Connor Cox offloaded a hard slapshot but it was easily beaten away by Ben Bowns in the Cardiff net.
Stars were given the first powerplay of the evening after Faryna was penalised for tripping in the seventh minute but it was killed off by Andrew Lord’s men. The home team tied the game in the ninth minute, Matt Bissonnette knocked the puck away from a Devil and Charles Corcoran collected the loose puck. He drove a low shot at Bowns but after hitting the goalie’s pads, the American followed up his own rebound and tucked home the loose puck.
Stars were back on the powerplay when Joey Haddad tripped Lukas Lundvald in the 12thminute. They started well before turning over the puck and Gleason Fournier forced a good save from Sjögren whilst shorthanded. Dundee were working the puck from side to side but got too close to Bowns and he snatched the puck up for a stoppage.
Just after returning to full-strength, Cardiff lost a second straight goal as Stars went 2-1 in front. The club’s 1300thElite League goal came from captain Johan Andersson, the Swede entered the Devils zone before pulling up at the left circle and firing a shot that was deflected past a screened Bowns in the 16thminute. Stars created another dangerous chance straight from the restart but Bowns was equal to that effort.
Cardiff’s Evan Mosey fired a quick shot from the draw but Sjögren did well to hold it then at the other end Bouchard, Bissonnette and Corcoran combined well for Dundee to test the Cardiff netminder. Brian Hart was next to go close for the home side but his effort was off-target from close range. The visitors tied it up 67 seconds before the first break, a pass came to Fournier on the goal line and he picked out Stephen Dixon in the slot. He fired a shot past the Stars keeper in the 19thminute.
Coach Lord was not happy with his side’s performance in the first 20 minutes and expected a better showing in the rest of the match and hoped his side would get back into their stride.
The second period began with Hart missing a good chance that was stopped by Bowns before being cleared away. The visitors continued to be put under pressure by Stars as they scrambled in front of Bowns’ goal but the Brit made a good save before the second chance was put wide in the 23rd minute.
Devils first powerplay came when Andersson was boxed on a holding call a few seconds later. The first action on the powerplay came when Sean Bentivoglio rattled his shot off the post. Two more opportunities came the way of Cardiff and both were on target but two stops by Sjögren kept them out before the Stars returned to full-strength.
A delayed penalty against Mark Richardson came after Stars had an opportunity to get forward, Bissonnette put his shot on target and Corcoran was closing in on the rebound but was held by Richardson. Once Stars had begun their powerplay, a lack of concentration in their own end allowed a turnover close to the Dundee net. Joey Martin drifted in and tucked home the free puck for the 3-2 lead in the 27thminute.
Drydn Dow’s shot was deflected wide by Mosey on a good odd man rush from Dundee and just after the Devils’ penalty expired, Dow fired a good shot that would tie the game at 3-3. In the 29thminute, the Canadian shot towards goal but at the last second, Lundvald redirected it past Bowns. The game was becoming more interesting as it went on with Dundee keeping pace with the current titleholders.
The away team had a big chance to re-take the lead but the puck would not settle for any Devil and was eventually cleared. Fabrizio Ricci was called for tripping in the 34thminute and that put the visitors back on the man advantage. The Devils were working hard down low in the Dundee end and were rewarded when Layne Ulmer took control of the puck before skating around from behind the net to deke the puck under the pad of Sjögren in the 37thminute.
Stars were pressing for an equaliser in the final minutes and numerous chances were denied by Bowns. The best chance came to Dow but the Cardiff netminder made a series of saves before covering up for a whistle. Omar Pacha praised his side and said they were doing a lot of good things. Dundee were getting pucks to the net and rebounds from that, so he wanted to see more in the third period.
Just 32 seconds into the final period, an early goal for Cardiff put them two goals ahead. Some good work by Fournier down the right side gave him the space to pass to Dixon, who scored from the same position as his first. A quick response was needed by Dundee and a good move was almost finished off but they struggled to get a clear shooting lane after the initial shot by Cox put the puck in front of goal.
The Welsh side were playing with confidence after doubling their lead and it showed when Martin played in Mike Hedden but he could not beat Sjögren from point blank range. Stars were given their biggest chance of the game when Craig Moore tripped a Stars player in the 49thminute. Pacha’s men were zero for four on the powerplay after that chance ended.
Bowns made another big save to deny Lundvald and keep his team two ahead but Stars were desperately searching for something inside the last five minutes. The Dundee coach pulled his keeper with 90 seconds to play and following the use of his timeout, his side went on full attack. Cardiff put on a display of excellent defending before a selfless play by Hedden allowed Jake Morissette to bag the empty netter five seconds from time.
‘Man of the Match’ prizes were given to Stephen Dixon and Dundee’s Brian Hart. Two disappointing losses for Dundee will not have damaged their mindset too much as the performances improved and that is a good sign ahead of next weekend’s big derby double-header with Fife Flyers. Speaking after the match, Omar Pacha said: “We worked hard all night, although we did make some individual mistakes that ultimately cost us.
“It is unfortunate because we battled hard but mistakes were made at the worst possible time.”