By Kris Smith
Stars suffered a blow to their playoff hopes after losing 4-2 to playoff rivals, Coventry Blaze.
Dundee were boosted by the return of assistant captain, Johan Andersson but lost their captain, Chris Lawrence to suspension as he picked up a two-game ban.
It was a jittery start to the game, but it also had a lot of physical play in the opening minute. Dundee got the first chance as Anthony Mastrodicasa collected a rebound and shot towards a open net but his shot bounced off the post rebound before Coventry went down the ice and Ross Venus’ effort was held by Travis Fullerton.
Gabriel Lévesque cut out a number of passes between Blaze players as Stars were creating many turnovers but couldn’t make them count in the final third. Shortly after, the home side thought they had taken the lead early on after the puck dropped out of the air and Coventry goalie, Kevin Nastiuk was unaware of its location before it popped out to Marc-Olivier Mimar and it hit the Stars forward’s skate and went in.
The referees ruled that Mimar had kicked the puck in and it was chopped off. The visitors then got the first powerplay of the night as Lévesque recieved a two-minute cross-checking penalty in the seventh minute. There was some good attacking play by Blaze, but Dundee cleared the puck well and killed off the minor.
Jordan Cownie was denied when he tried to jam one home past Nastiuk before Marc-Olivier Vallerand and Dundee’s Riley Stadel exchanged a few words at a break in play. Adam Harding put in a good shift and finished it off with a slapshot effort that was saved but the rebound came out to Cownie, but he could not connect with it.
Cody Carlson was penalised for high sticking in the fourteenth minute and that put Coventry back on the powerplay. Stadel almost scored a shorthanded goal for Dundee when he drove the net, but the Blaze netminder made the stop. Danny Stewart’s side continued to have no luck on the powerplay as it was killed off once more by Stars.
Omar Pacha’s men got their first chance on the powerplay as Brett Robinson hooked Brian Hart in the seventeenth minute. Emerson Hrynyk fired a shot that took an awkward bounce in front of Nastiuk, but he just managed to keep it out. Dundee were hammering the Blaze net but they couldn’t get the go ahead goal before the man advantage expired.
The home team had a series of chances late in the period as Jimmy Jensen was denied in front before Pacha failed to control a pass he received at the backdoor. Then Malcolm Gould was unlucky not to score when he was alone in front of goal.
However, on the nineteenth minute mark Vallerand and Robinson created a turnover in the Stars end and Vallerand was all alone in when he went in on goal, he slowly took it around Fullerton before firing into the roof of goal. Hrynyk took a high sticking penalty with forty seconds to go in the first period as Blaze ended the period with a man advantage.
The second period begun and after just seven seconds, Carlson was given a delay of game penalty after his clearance went out of bounds and Coventry gained a 5-on-3 advantage.
Blaze were pressuring Dundee but some big stops by Fullerton kept the score at 1-0 before both penalties were killed off.
Stars got another powerplay after Alex Barron hooked Lévesque and that gave them the opportunity to find an equaliser, Lukas Lundvald pulled out some silky moves, but he was robbed by the stick of Nastiuk when he tried to send the puck across to his teammate. Dundee were working hard but had nothing to show for it.
Luke Ferrara skated in close on Fullerton and got a shot away, but it was easily saved by the Stars netminder. Both sides had a lot of chances in the middle period, but they got a rest when there was a delay in play as Kevin Noble was cut behind the paly and his blood had to be cleaned off the ice.
Coventry’s Gustav Ahnelöv dumped the puck into the offensive end before another awkward bounce off glass forced the Stars keeper to reach around and glove it out of mid-air. Ben Lake and Vallerand could not get a touch of the puck as they lurked at backdoor. Blaze were dominating the play and their momentum finally culminated with Dax Lauwers firing a shot from the blueline that went past everyone and into the goal at 35:51.
Stars needed a quick equaliser and they almost got one after some good board play. Cownie lifted the puck out in front to Pacha but his shot stung the palm of Nastiuk. Jensen missed another opportunity when he failed to hit the target after he was picked out in an unmarked position. Dundee went into the final break down by a pair and needed a big third period to rescue any points from the game.
Gould took a puck to his face early in the third period and he went to the locker room for some treatment. Stars created some good opportunities early on and after some hard work they forced a big mistake behind the Blaze net. Hart chased the puck in behind the net and forced a turnover from Nastiuk, he shot the puck off Gaelan Patterson and it slid between the legs of the Coventry keeper at 45:32.
Vallerand and Stadel both picked up coincidental minor penalties in the in forty-seventh minute after they had another heated exchange. It was not long into the 4-on-4 when Hrynyk skated through the neutral zone and collected a pass before he fired a low shot past the Nastiuk at 46:25.
Dundee had tied the game in a quick fashion and that gave them a chance to get back on course for collecting the two points. However, Carlson was charged with interference, also in the forty-seventh minute and that put Stars straight on the backfoot.
Fullerton made numerous key saves to keep the Blaze at bay, one was a highlight reel save as he dived across his crease to make a stick save of Robinson’s shot that was thought to be a sure goal. Gould returned to the ice and was immediately involved in the play as he cut through every Coventry player before drawing a penalty after being hooked by Barron in the fiftieth minute.
Vallerand had a great opportunity to restore the road teams lead but he was forced wide by the Stars defencemen and his shot went off target. Fullerton then pulled out a big stop to rob David Clements of a goal. At the other end Stadel let go a shot that trickled wide of the Coventry goal, but it caused alarm to Nastiuk as it wrong footed the Canadian.
Lundvald was checked into boards and that put Dundee back on the powerplay as Vojtech Kloz took a two-minute penalty for interference in the fifty-fifth minute. Although it was Stars who were forced to defend and Fullerton bailed his side out with an unbelievable toe save to keep it at 2-2.
However, the home team’s luck was running out and Lake scored inside the final two minutes to put the visitors ahead. He was lurking behind Dundee defence and received a pass that put him through one-on-one with Fullerton and he scored a carbon copy of Vallerand’s goal at 58:03.
Pacha pulled his goaltender for the extra attacker and called a timeout with sixty-four seconds left. Although they could not prevent Lake scoring into an empty net after backhanding a shot past the Dundee defencemen. Travis Fullerton and Coventry’s Ryan Dingle were chosen as the ‘Man of the Match’ award recipients.
A 4-2 defeat dented Stars playoff hopes but now they must get back on track with a win over Milton Keynes Lightning.