By Kris Smith
The Kitmart Dundee Stars almost pulled off the comeback of the season but they fell just short in a game full of goals against playoff rivals, Guildford Flames.
Stars welcomed back captain, Johan Andersson from injury but Matt Bissonnette and François Bouchard were not fit enough to return. Guildford were minus five players from their roster on the night.
It was not a great start for Dundee as Oliver Paczkowski picked up a roughing penalty after just 58 seconds and the Flames would capitalise on the early man advantage. Jesse Craige hit the post with a hard shot from the blueline but it rebounded off the Stars goalie, Pontus Sjögren and into the net.
However, more penalties ensued after the goal as Petr Chaloupka and Guildford’s Ian Watters continued to shove each other over and that sent them both to the sin bin for two minutes each on the second minute mark.
Dundee went on the attack straight from the restart but they failed to get ahead, even with Mike Sullivan getting a clear shooting lane at Travis Fullerton. The home side were in trouble again as failed stick-lift caught Eric Lindhagen in the face and Matt Marquardt was punished in the seventh minute.
This time, Omar Pacha’s men survived the powerplay and continued to press for the equaliser. It almost came as Fullerton saved one shot but Jordan Cownie could not bat-in a mid-air rebound.
The side form Surrey continued to lead 1-0 at the first break despite some heavy pressure from Stars in the last part of the first period. The Flames quickly doubled their lead in the second stanza as Evan Janssen waited patiently on a pass from Ben Davies before smashing his shot past Sjögren after just 25 seconds into the middle period.
It went from bad to worse for the Tayside team as TJ Foster snuck a shot into the top corner from a tight angle just a few minutes after the second goal. Dundee were looking dangerous as they slowly edged towards a first goal but they were hit on a quick counter as Paul Dixon’s men made it 4-0 just before the halfway mark.
Sjögren was unable to control an incoming shot and Jordan Abt quickly whacked the puck into the net. Stars were losing their patience and goal-mouth scramble became heated. It left Chaloupka, Fabrizio Ricci and Guildford’s Richard Krogh all in the box for roughing after 31 minutes.
A fifth goal came for the visitors as all the roughing penalties had left them on the powerplay again. This time it was Jamie Crooks who found the net as he was at the end of a good passing move before shooting high above Sjogren in the 33rd minute.
Ricci returned to the penalty box a few minutes later after verbally abusing the referees’ after they failed to call a penalty after the Canadian was hit from behind into the boards. Pacha would have been thankful it was only a two-minute penalty and a few minutes later, Stars finally broke through.
Drydn Dow flung a shot towards Fullerton before it was redirected by Brian Hart and Marquardt but it was latter who got the vital touch. That goal had reduced the deficit to just four in the 38th minute.
Dundee finally found some luck as a holding foul by Corbin Baldwin was called and after a long-delayed whistle, Stars had a powerplay inside the final two minutes of the second period.
The home team were then given a penalty shot and a huge chance to cut into Guildford’s massive lead. Charles Corcoran was brought down by the stick of Abt as he slashed at the feet of the Stars American forward with just 16 seconds left on the clock.
Corcoran waited too long to release his shot and Fullerton poked the puck off his stick. Dundee now had a five-on-three-man advantage as Brett Ferguson was also boxed for slashing.
Stars started the third session just how they needed to. Matt Marquardt blasted a slapshot past the Flames keeper after just 27 seconds and they snatched another powerplay goal to make it 5-3. Connor Cox’s shot went through everyone before hitting the back of the net before the 42nd minute mark.
Amazingly, after less than six minutes of the third period, Dundee brought it back to 5-4. Hart took the puck into the Flames end with speed before Corcoran put the shot off the post but Hart was there to drive the rebound past Fullerton.
The English team were in trouble as Jeremy Lundin was called for tripping in the 49th minute. However, Guildford killed off the powerplay and managed to hold onto their narrow lead until the final few minutes.
With just over three minutes left in the game, Stars were handed another chance on the powerplay as Calle Ackered was called for interference. Dundee put the Flames under immense pressure and swapped their goalie for the extra attacker but Stars could not find another way past Fullerton as he backstopped his team to a win.
Stars have slipped outside the playoff spots but with the league so tight, a few wins will see them rise up to the middle of the table. ‘Man of the Match’ awards went to TJ Foster and Dundee’s Drydn Dow.
Pacha must now draw up his plans for next weekend’s fixtures when his side travel to Milton Keynes Lightning before a pair of games against Glasgow Clan.