By Kris Smith
Another valiant performance from Stars in their final weekend of the season would have pleased the fans but once again it was not enough to secure a positive result.
Craig Holland would start the final game of the year for Dundee and they were without Malcolm Gould, Riley Stadel and Chris Lawrence. Meanwhile nine of Belfast’s players were not in the line-up for their final regular season match, including the suspended Jim Vandermeer.
The play went from end-to-end in the opening five minutes but neither goalie was forced to make a difficult save. Stars got the first powerplay of the evening as Cole Jarret was penalised for interference in the seventh minute.
There were some good chances for Dundee on the powerplay, but Belfast killed off the minor penalty with ease. After being released from the box, Jarrett got to the front of the Stars goal before tipping a shot, but it went wide of the target. A shot on the Stars net was tipped up in the air by Brendan Connolly before it fell to Blair Riley and he tucked home the rebound at 10:34.
Dickson made a good save to keep Giants ahead after Dundee put some pressure on the home team’s defences. Omar Pacha’s men went back on the powerplay as Connolly sat for hooking. Belfast killed off the man advantage again before Holland was caught out of his net, but the Giants’ forward could not punish his mistake.
Brian Hart was denied from point blank range on feed from Lukas Lundvald and it was comfortable save for the Belfast keeper. A 2-on-1 break for Sebastien Sylvestre and Connolly ended with Sylvestre finding the net after quick pass took the Dundee netminder out of the equation and left the Giants forward a gaping goal to score into at 16:10.
Forty-nine seconds later Darcy Murphy tipped a shot in front of Holland after Kevin Raine fired a quick shot from the face-off and the redirect by Murphy was enough to beat Holland. Now 3-0 behind, Stars needed a response and they almost got a quick reply as a slap-pass to Marc-Olivier Mimar, found the Canadian at the backdoor and he quickly fired a shot on goal, but Dickson went from post-to-post to make the save.
Adam Keefe’s side went 4-0 up after a pass from the by line in front to Sylvestre and he beat Holland on his near post, Dundee had left themselves a mountain climb, but they would start the second period on the powerplay as Raine was called for charging in the final minute.
Johan Andersson gave Stars an early boost as he got into the Giants end alone and controlled the puck before moving it to his backhand and sending a shot over the glove of Dickson, for a powerplay goal at 21:26.
Andersson then stripped the puck from Sylvestre, as the Belfast player got into a dangerous area in front of the Stars goal. Connolly could have restored the four-goal lead but he missed a big chance after beating Holland, his shot went wide of goal.
Holland made an excellent save when he gloved the shot from Sylvestre, after the Giants key man got released a quick shot. The Northern Irish side got their first man advantage as Adam Harding sat for hooking in the thirty-fourth minute. The action went from end-to-end again with Dundee probing for another goal after killing off the penalty. Holland was looking more comfortable in the middle period and Stars were slowly edging their way back in.
However, they went on the backfoot as Giants went back on the powerplay as Pacha was boxed on a hooking call in the thirty-ninth minute. There was a big chance in last minute of the second period as Jonathan Ferland fired a shot from close range but, Holland got his stick up to deflect the puck onto the bar. Dundee went down to just three skaters as Anthony Mastrodicasa was charged with holding with just thirty-two seconds left to play.
Although, with a two-man advantage, the home side were very dominant, they forced the Stars goalie to move from side-to-side, but he just wasn’t quick enough to stop the one-timer from Spiro Goulakos at 39:57.
Adam Keefe’s men would start the third period still on the powerplay as there was still time to be served on the Mastrodicasa minor.
Dundee once again killed the penalty before gaining a man advantage of their own as Rutherford sat for high sticking in the forty-third minute. Once again, the road team punished the Giants ill-discipline. Lundvald paused in front of goal before slapping a shot into the top corner past a screened Dickson at 42:25, the Belfast netminder knew nothing about it.
Holland then made a big save after the restart before Harding had a chance on the breakaway but he lost control of the puck before he could get a shot away. Rutherford rattled the post ,as some more fast paly by Belfast forced multiple saves from Holland.
He made a brilliant series of saves by before Inglis was penalised for hooking in the forty-eighth minute. It did not take long for the hosts to extend their lead as Ferland redirected a slapshot from the blueline past the Stars keeper at 48:21.
That powerplay marker had moved Adam Keefe’s side ahead 6-2 and they weren’t stopping there, Murphy skated in to the Stars end alone but a big blocker save by Holland kept his effort out. Jarret played a brilliant pass off the boards to send Connolly in on goal and despite Holland getting a huge chunk of his shot it still trickled through, making it 7-2 at 52:14.
Dundee answered back swiftly as Lundvald played a quick pass in front to Jordan Cownie and he beat Dickson for Stars third goal of the evening at 54:22, but straight after the face-off Sylvestre grabbed his hat-trick after his shot came of the post and leg of Holland before crossing the line at 54:36.
Andersson netted his second on the evening after being fed the puck by Hart, as he once again beat Dickson on the backhand at 58:38. Andersson then set up Cody Carlson for Dundee’s fifth goal in the final minute after the Swede played a pass in front and the defenceman snuck it under Dickson with just forty-two seconds left on the clock.
A third straight loss in Belfast for Dundee meant their season ended on a low but there will be many positives for Omar Pacha to take from his sides performance as they once again had no problem in finding the net. Lukas Lundvald and Belfast’s Sebastien Sylvestre picked up the ‘Man of the Match’ awards.
Photo: Belfast Giants