By Kris Smith
Stars failed to create a winning streak after back-to-back defeats this weekend but did have a full selection of players after some injuries cleared up.
Dundee were at full-strength after Matt Bissonnette returned to the line-up, while Belfast were without Colin Shields, Francis Beauvillier, Jonathon Ferland, Andrew Dickson and Matt Towe.
The Giants had the first scoring chance of the game but a block by Connor Cox sent Patrick Dwyer’s shot out of play. Charles Corcoran was first to go closest for Dundee after his effort was denied by the pad of Belfast goalie, Tyler Beskorowany. Next to be denied was Belfast’s Kyle Baun after he found space but was denied by Pontus Sjögren in the Dundee net. Stars gained the game’s first powerplay after Lewis Hook was given a two-minute penalty for holding in the third minute.
Dundee created some dangerous attacks early in the period but just lacked the finishing touch. Matt Marquardt set-up Corcoran, who fired a shot that Brian Hart failed to redirect past Beskorowany, all before the holding penalty expired. Omar Pacha’s Stars were next to be punished as Drydn Dow was called for slashing by referee Steve Brown in the seventh minute.
Belfast’s David Rutherford was dispossessed by Matt Bissonnette when he tried to shoot the puck but the Stars winger skated into the Giants end before being denied on several opportunities. Stars should have had the lead if not for Beskorowany’s terrific stops. In the 11thminute, a shot fired in by Darcy Murphy was saved by the leg of Sjögren but Rutherford was there to whack the rebound home. From the restart the visitors went close again, this time Hook fired a high shot that was saved by the mask of Sjögren.
Adam Keefe’s side started to control the game and from their dominant play Hunter Bishop was able to hold possession of the puck whilst moving through the Stars zone. The Giants forward then rattled his shot off the far post from in between the face-off circles. A good period of play followed for Stars but it ended with Cox’s shot being held by the Belfast netminder. Hook again had space in the middle of the slot and fired a quick snapshot off the underside off the crossbar and into the net, doubling the Giants lead in the 18thminute.
Blair Riley was also denied by the head of Sjögren in the first period and the Stars goalie held onto to get a break in play as everyone piled in looking for the puck. Stars had the final chance of the period when a shot from Cox went all the way through the defence and slipped past Hart. Before it could reach François Bouchard, Beskorowany snatched the easy finish away from the Stars forward, inside the final minute.
It was not the start Stars wanted as the league leaders were in front after 20 minutes of play but Dundee needed to find a way back into the game.
However, just 51 seconds into the second period Hook beat Sjögren for his second goal of the evening, making it 3-0 but Stars were not out. From the face-off, Dundee won possession and Corcoran fired one past the Belfast goalie, 10 seconds after the restart. Seconds later, Lukas Lundvald almost pulled it back to a one-goal game but seen his low shot saved at the last second by the toe of Beskorowany.
The Canadian keeper made another save moments later to deny Hart and the rebound dropped into the Giants goal crease but Hart was unable to get a strong enough touch to get it across the line. Stars began to play some beautiful hockey and the creativity was flowing. Lundvald spun behind the visitor’s goal and sent a pass out to the Stars captain, Johan Andersson but the Swede was unable to jam it past Beskorowany in the 26thminute.
Stars were back on the penalty kill inside the 27thminute as Corcoran served a two-minute minor penalty for delay of game. Dundee made an excellent break whilst a man down and after rounding the net, Fabrizio Ricci played a pass to Andersson who was denied on his first attempt before hitting the side netting on the follow-up. Dundee killed the penalty again, only for the puck to fall to Dustin Johner and he shot over Sjögren from close range in the 29thminute.
Stars were straight back on the attack but after losing possession were caught out on a 2-on-1 break. The Giant’s top scorer, Blair Riley finished between the legs of the Stars goalie, 32 seconds after they scored their fourth goal. Omar Pacha called a timeout to organise his side after falling 5-1 behind. Dundee did not give-up however and had another big chance when Dow sent Bouchard through on goal but his shot was beaten away by the stick of Beskorowany.
Rutherford was denied a second goal after Sjögren held his shot in the 36thminute. The home side were pressing for a late goal and it nearly came as a quick pass from Cownie was blasted first time by Bissonnette but even that was not enough to beat the Giants keeper with two minutes left in the middle stanza.
In the final minute, Stars went all out in order to give themselves a fighting chance in the third period, Jordan Cownie skated into the Belfast half and flung a shot from deep on the left side that beat Beskorowany with just five seconds left on the clock.
Stars had a big goal to build-off and needed to start the third period strong against the tiring Giants who entered their ninth period of hockey for the weekend.
It was a slow start to the third period and neither side made any clear-cut chances. Marquardt made a great play down the right wing only for his shot to come off the post and then the goalie inside the 47thminute. A high hit from Paul Swindlehurst on the Stars captain, enraged Kris Inglis and he immediately dropped the gloves with the Giant and the pair landed heavy punches before falling to the ice. Cownie managed to win back the puck after losing control and played through Corcoran who passed it onto Bouchard but the Canadian could not pick out any of his teammates in 52ndminute. Stars were still creating chances but none were finished and they continued to trail 5-2 with seven minutes remaining. Stars pulled another back to make it 5-3 after Shawn Boutin’s shot from the right-side beat Beskorowany with just over three minutes to play. Stars pulled their netminder in the hope of creating a miracle comeback but the only goal came in the last second when Kyle Baun put the puck into the empty net.
‘Man of the Match’ awards were given to Kyle Baun and Dundee’s Lukas Lundvald. Stars must prepare to face Sheffield again next weekend, as they host the first team to shut them out this season.
Talking after the match, Stars head coach Pacha said: “It was overall a frustrating weekend, I think as a team we did not play to our strengths and we did not do the little things right, you can see that against the best team in the league and they will make you pay.
“The first five minutes we had chances and I think we just need that lucky bounce to get us started but at the same time there is no excuse.
“We have not scored many goals this year so we have to play the same way, a structured way, the main difference tonight was when their guys had it in front of the net they scored goals.”