The wait was finally over for hockey fans in the City of Dundee as Belfast Giants were visitors in the opening game of the season. Both teams were missing key players as Stars went without Lawrence, Lee and Mimar, who were yet to land in Starland but Jimmy Jensen was unable ice and Belfast were without their top point scorer from last season, Blair Riley and John Kurtz.
The game got underway with early pressure from Belfast, as an early shot from the top of the left circle was saved by the pad of Fullerton. The play fell into the corners, leaving Giants Darcy Murphy open but his shot found its way to the Stars goalies glove. Mark Garside’s effort came next but was batted away by the stick of Fullerton into the high netting. The Stars were loose with their possession in their own zone but blocked the shooting lanes well.
Malcolm Gould skated the length of the ice before sliding a pass back across the zone to Emerson Hrynyk who’s shot bounced off the pad of Jackson Whistle, Dundee released a few scrappy shots but all were blocked or saved. Approaching the end of the opening five minutes Belfast were utilising their D-men to fire in high and powerful slapshots from the blue line, however none of Spiro Goulakos found the twine.
Tyler Brickler made a good break after holding at the Giants blueline but his shot slipped just wide of the post. Darcy Murphy found himself again at the backpost and tipped the puck towards the stars net but a sliding Fullerton made the save, the Stars broke up the ice on a four-on-two and created a goalmouth scramble but the puck was eventually covered by Whistle. Gould was back at it as he stick lifted a Giants defender, broke into the zone, saucered the puck to Adam Harding who unleashed a strong slapshot but it was no trouble for the Belfast goalie.
The mostly new Stars team were playing well and won most key stick battles in the middle of the period. The Giants stepped it up by introducing physical play, to the Stars fans annoyance. Belfast got into the zone on a quick break and a Matt Towe tip went just wide and after that it was hard to move them but the Stars defensive unit did a god job to shut down the Giants. Tyler Brickler was once again found high on the blue line for a quick break and tried to break the deadlock by launching a rocket, which was met by the glove of Whistle.
The first ten minutes had been end to end with both sides looking strong, as did Kris Ingils when he wiped out 6ft 5, Ryan Martinelli. The Cownie – Gould- Dickin line were working well as a unit and creating key chances for the home side. Belfast started to build pressure by circling back to their big blueliners who struggled to get shots away but when they could, they cause trouble for the Stars defence. Johan Anderson and Gabriel Levesque broke away but failed to make the Giants pay.
The final five minutes seen the end-to-end action continue, the Giants found themselves back in the Stars zone as Ryan Martinelli ripped a slapshot off the pad of Fullerton, Cole Jarrett repeated but the outcome was still the same. The first handbags of the season came after another scramble in front of the Stars goal and Riley Stadel was quick to step in to protect his teammates.
When play resumed Stars took possession from the face-off and sped into the Giants zone where following a loose rebound from a spilled wrist shot, Gould met the puck with a swift strong wrist and sent it high but it was met by the glove of Whistle, as Stars were denied once again. Belfast finally got the break they needed, as they skated two-one and a late pass across the crease from Steve Saviano found Colin Shields who slotted it in, to send the Giants ahead 1-0 at 17:36. Dundee looked for a quick answer as a shot across the crease by Mastrodicasa was stopped by the stick of Whistle. Johan Anderson went five-hole as the buzzer sounded but was shutout.
The second period welcomed back a hungry Stars team eager to tie the game, Cam Mcgiffin cut a pass back to Tyler Brickler whose shot was saved. Riley Stadel then fired a slapshot into the chest of Whistle, the puck was cleared and Stars regrouped and quickly created a three-on-one, the Giants cut it out but drew a penalty in the process, Jim Vandermeer was given two minutes for boarding at 23:12.
The first opportunity on the powerplay came instantly as the puck slid across the Giants goal but no player could tuck it away before the whistle went, this was the first look at a powerplay with real potential. Dundee’s pressure was starting to topple the Giants, Stadel circled from the bottom of the ice to get a pass at centre ice from Dickin before firing a wrist shot off the post and in at 25:29, seconds after the powerplay ended.
Adam Keefe needed a response from his side and they just about got it when they found themselves three-on-two with the stars defence, Garside fired a shot that Fullerton tipped wide with his blocker leading to Colin Shields firing a wrister into his pads. The next few minutes were scrappy, sloppy passes gave both sides chances but both goalies ‘stood on their heads’ again.
A miscommunication in the Belfast defence left a puck open in front of goal and a handful of players all dived in to get it but after the puck was cleared, referee Toby Craig called a two-minute slashing penalty against Cameron McGiffin at 27:58. Colin Shields rattled a one-timer off the post but the Stars held their own and cleared the puck, Belfast were put under pressure in their own zone as Stars didn’t ease up and killed off the two minutes.
Brendan Connolly had been a problem for the Stars defence all-night, he rifled one shot into the chest of Fullerton before it was covered, following the face-off Matt Towe sent the puck forward and Connolly came back around cut across the front of goal and pulled the puck around Fullerton to slide it into an open goal at 31:11.
The second half of the period found the physical side of the game, came more into effect as Connolly had a near miss with ‘freight-train’ Emerson Hrynyk, who after, was called out by Connolly, all before Stadel took an off the play hit which led to more words being exchanged by each team. Connolly was given a two-minute penalty for elbowing at 33:44.
The game in no way settled down as Spiro Goulakos delivered a check to the back of Adam Harding, deemed interference by Toby Craig and Stars were on a five-on-three powerplay at 34:38. Gould had the first chance as he hit the post as Dundee created tremendous pressure on the two-man advantage. Johner was next to take a seat in the sinbin for two minutes on a slashing call, which led to Omar pacha calling a timeout at 35:17.
Taylor Dickin’s snapshot in front of net was saved, the Stars lost their edge on the Giants as the Irishmen cleared and got back to four skaters. Jackson whistle added another save to a highlight reel performance when Jordan Cownie flicked a shot down the throat of Whistle after the powerplay concluded.
Brendan Connolly was back at it, becoming Northern Ireland’s answer to the Magic-Man, as he latched on to a rebound and with a very fancy backhanded shot, lifted it high towards the roof of the net, only to be gloved by Dundee’s backstopper, the Buzzer went at the end of the second period and a few more words were exchanged after some physical play along the boards.
End-to-end action was again the style for the third period, inside the two minutes Cole Jarrett shot wide from close range then at the other end, the puck sliped ahead of a chasing Cownie but Whistle pokes it away before he can do anything.
The Giants found a chance when Travis Fullerton was down spread across his crease but the shot was fired wide. Stadel intercepted in Dundee’s defensive zone to create a breakaway, the chance went a-miss, before Ferland wiped out Stadel with a high hit, Emerson Hyrynyk wasted no time in stepping up and throwing a few jabs to defend his teammate.
Dundee started the next phase of play with a man advantage as Ferland was given two minutes for interference at 44:50. Both teams had upped their physical play and Joey De Concilys found a break, only to have his slapshot saved. It was not one of the best powerplays from Dundee and Belfast found an opportunity to release their man on a breakaway as he stepped out of the box, but could not hit the target after the Stars put him under pressure.
Omar Pacha’s side had been getting under Connolly’s skin as he roughed up a Stars player along the boards and drew another penalty as he was called for roughing at 47:41. Dundee’s sixth powerplay of the night was looking good and the unit created fantastic opportunities but the ‘puck-luck’ was not there as one shot bounced off a teammate and back out. The powerplay ended but Stars were getting stronger by the minute with only ten left.
The pace of the game went up another level and it was back and forth for over a minute before Fullerton froze the play. Belfast found a way back into the game as their man on the back post was gifted the puck but somehow failed to slip it under a flying Fullerton and it went straight across the crease. Three Giants broke into the Dundee zone and De Concilys broke up one pass before Fullerton froze a low snapshot.
The last three minutes seemed all Belfast as they looked to seal the points, eventually Dundee intercepted and headed down ice to be once again denied by Jackson Whistle. It came down to the last thirty-six seconds and Omar Pacha yanked Travis Fullerton to the bench, Dundee strung together some really strong passes and with twenty-six seconds left on the clock, the puck fell to Adam Harding who slotted the puck over the pad of Whistle. The clock winded-down and it went to three-on-three overtime.
Dundee won the opening face-off and moved quickly into Belfast’s end, however it was Brendan Connolly with the first clear chance as he sent a backhand shot high and wide. Jim Vandermeer gave Dundee a scare when he tipped a shot low towards goal but Fullerton was there to make the save.
Dundee fired a few more shots at Whistle but he was not going to be broken easily, this forced Fullerton to up his game and that he did, as he denied two Giants with two huge saves, coming out of his crease to meet the puck with 1:35 left on the clock. Tyler Brickler had the chance to end it when a loose puck was left in front of the Giants goal but Whistle tried to play the puck and it was sent straight up in the air and Belfast held onto possession until the buzzer sounded once more.
Brendan Connolly stepped up to take the first penalty-shot and he skated in between the circles, pulled the puck to his backhand and tried to slide it on the already closed five-hole of Fullerton.
Riley Stadel would face his friend and ex-roommate Jackson Whistle. Stadel skated towards the right, cut through the face-off circle and fired high to the right over the glove of Whistle and into the back of the net.
Sébastien Sylvestre went next for the Giants, he also went right moving through the top of the slot before faking but the puck glided into Fullerton’s right pad.
Malcolm Gould had the chance to win it for Dundee, he drifted left but stayed close to the middle and released a quick snapshot which Whistle easily stopped.
The pressure fell to Belfast and GB hero Colin Shields, who went straight down the middle and started to drift left with a slow shot bouncing off of Fullerton’s pad and Omar Pacha’s side claimed the extra point and their first victory of the season.