Short-benched Stars Stun Giants

Elite League: Dundee Stars 2 Belfast Giants 0

By Kris Smith

Dundee Stars welcomed the Belfast Giants into their arena for the third time this season, with both teams looking to bounce back from defeats on Saturday night.

Dundee fell 5-1 to local rivals, the Fife Flyers in the ‘Auld Rivalry’ at Fife Ice Arena and the Giants suffered a 3-0 home defeat to current league champions the Cardiff Devils. Each team was missing multiple key players as Dundee were still without five of their skaters and Belfast were missing five imports from their line-up.

Dundee had the early chances but could not direct many shots at Chris Truehl, as the goalie made his debut for the Giants. The Stars were creating pressure in the Belfast zone as they waited for the right chance to strike but a pass to Kris Ingils on the blueline, slipped under his stick and gave the Giants a break. Riley Stadel almost got clean through the Giants defence but he still had the chance to score, unfortunately he could not control the bouncing puck.

Adam Keefe’s side then had their turn to test the Stars defence but they held strong to keep the game scoreless and from there the action went from one end to the other but the score remained the same. Brian Hart almost gave Dundee the lead when he cut across the goal but Truehl shadowed him well to make the save.

Justin Fox repeated Hart’s move but dragged the puck around the front of goal before sending his shot back across the face of goal. The first stanza concluded without any penalties or goals.

Both teams stepped it up for the second period as Dundee quickly setup in the Belfast zone and Truehl was made to spread across the ice to deny the Stars of the opening goal. However moments later, Johan Andersson chased down the puck after it was fired into the Giants end. He won the race and jammed it in at the near post, Truehl tried to bat it out of the net but it was already across the line and Dundee had the lead at 24:55.

Straight after the restart the Stars attacked again but the net was knocked off before anything could happen Travis Fullerton then shut the door twice on the road team to keep the lead before he went on to deny Jonathan Ferland who tried to go five-hole on the Stars goalie.

Dundee got the first man advantage of the game as Ferland was then called on a hooking infraction in the thirty fourth minute, the home team used their man advantage well and forced an early save from the Giants netminder but he would not be beaten again before the powerplay expired.

Stars head coach Omar Pacha flicked a wrist shot on goal and the rebound from Truehl fell to Jimmy Jensen but a quick interception by a Belfast defenceman robbed the Swede of his chance to double the lead. There was good chances for both teams but no difference was made until Belfast picked up a man advantage after Omar Pacha was penalised for hooking, with just nine seconds left in the second period.

Both goalies were forced to make crucial saves inside the opening minutes of the third period as the Irish team tried to make the most of their powerplay but Dundee got the job done. Jensen was tripped while chasing the puck but referee Neil Wilson gave no penalty. Dundee would not need the extra advantage, as Brian Hart smashed a slapshot under the glove of Truehl to double the his side’s lead at 46:32.

Fullerton continued his strong performance as he denied Brandon Benedict from close range. Belfast stepped it up a gear as they were desperately searching for a road back into the game but they were not helped by Brendan Connolly who directed verbal abuse at the referee and received a ten minute misconduct penalty, which would expire with only thirty three seconds left to play. They lost, arguably their best player and Connolly has amassed the most goals against the Stars, for Belfast this season.

Dundee had breakaway after breakaway but an aggressive Truehl shut down every opportunity. Gabriel Lévesque intercepted a Belfast pass and sent the puck across to Hart who fried just over the crossbar, wasting a chance to give them a comfortable 3-0 lead.

Fullerton continued to be unbeatable as Ryan Martinelli crashed the net, trying to get his side a goal but the Dundee skaters were quick to defend their goaltender. High pressure from the experienced Giants team tested the young Stars but they dealt with it well before a scramble in front of the Dundee goal almost gave up their shutout but Travis Fullerton rescued them once more.

Chris Truehl was removed from the Belfast goal with just two minutes left as Adam Keefe hoped an extra skater could make the difference on the scoreboard. Lévesque and Malcolm Gould both missed their chances to score into an empty net as the Giants defended in numbers before creating a key chance but it went wide of the net and Dundee breathed a sigh of relief.

Coach Keefe also used his timeout to inspire his team with just thirty-seven seconds left, it all led up to a last second scramble which forced Fullerton into action as he was determined to get his first shutout and when the buzzer sounded he was delighted as was the rest of the Stars who picked up their first win after two straight defeats.

Travis Fullerton was the obvious choice for Dundee’s ‘Man of the Match’ award and his counter-part Chris Truehl claimed the oppositions award.

Dundee have no time to enjoy their win as the Cardiff Devils arrive in town on Wednesday, the Devils claimed back to back victories this weekend, defeating Belfast 3-0 in Ireland on Saturday night before hammering the Edinburgh Capitals 7-2 in the Welsh capital last night.

Andrew Lord’s men took a 4-0 win last time they met the Stars and will look for a bigger and better repeat of the score line. Ex-Star Justin Faryna scored the opening goal against Dundee in September and is still playing well as he scored three of the Devils ten goals this weekend.