By Kris Smith
Dundee Stars fought against a tonne of adversity in Manchester and despite a strong fightback in the middle period, they came up short again in the Storm Shelter.
Connor Cox and François Bouchard were Dundee’s only injured scratches while Omar Pacha resumed head coaching duties on the bench. Manchester were missing seven players from their full roster.
It was a fast-paced start in Altrincham and both sides created good chances but the goaltenders came out on top. The play went back and forth for the first half of the period with no team breaking the deadlock but the physical play picked up again.
A hit on Dundee’s Oliver Paczkowski by Chance Baird ignited a fire, Paczkowski threw a retaliation hit as the play came back around to Baird and the Storm forward hooked the Pole by his ribs to draw him back for a fight.
The pair dropped the gloves for a short bout and headed to the box. Both received five minutes for fighting and Paczkowski also got two plus 10 minutes for checking from behind. With Manchester on the powerplay, the tensions flared again as more scraps started in front of the Dundee net, 30 seconds later.
However, Dundee were dealt a huge blow as their goalie, Pontus Sjögren was thrown out of the game for punching a player with his blocker during the melee. Luke Moffatt was also assessed a pair of two-minute penalties, one for roughing and one for slashing.
With Craig Holland now in the net for Dundee, Manchester quickly pounced. Dane Byers sent a shot over the shoulder of the Scot to open the scoring on the powerplay in the 12th minute.
Petr Chaloupka was next to take a seat in the sin bin as the Dundee defenceman was boxed for cross-checking in the 14th minute. Moffatt added to the home team’s lead, he tucked home the puck after a scramble in front in the 16th minute. Omar Pacha’s side managed to keep the deficit to just two goals before the first break.
Dundee were still on the backfoot in the second period and were quickly punished by Mike Hammond as he put a shot out of the reach of Holland after 24th minutes. However, with their first man advantage of the night, Stars quickly capitalised to get themselves back in the game.
Mike Sullivan kept in an attempted clearance before Jordan Cownie fired a slapshot past Matt Ginn in the 32nd minute.
The Taysiders quickly found a second goal to make it 3-2 as Fabrizio Ricci lurked in the Storm half and took a pass that sent him through on goal, the Canadian coolly finished through the legs of the Manchester goalie, 58 seconds after their first goal.
It would have been a tied game if referee, Chris Wells did not disallow Charles Corcoran’s goal a few moments later. Despite Dundee being dangerous up front, the Storm held a 3-2 lead going into the final intermission.
Ryan Finnerty’s men made it 4-2 after 45 minutes of play as Moffatt netted a second goal. Although, the Stars were gifted another chance to quickly strike back on the powerplay as Shane Bakker was assessed a two plus 10 penalty for checking to the head after he caught Lukas Lundvald high.
The Storm held out whilst shorthanded and both sides exchanged chances for the rest of the period but when it came down to the final minutes, Pacha used his timeout before pulling his netminder. Dundee could still not get another goal and with 58 seconds left on the clock, Linden Springer was penalised for interference but even with a two-man advantage, Stars could not find a way to steal a point and lost their third straight match.
Mike Hammond and Dundee’s Mike Sullivan were picked as ‘Man of the Match’ winners for their performances. Stars return home for the most important game of the season as they host Coventry Blaze in what is becoming a do-or-die match for their playoff hopes.