By Kris Smith
A dominant third period by Stars extended their winning streak to five games with a giant victory over the league leaders.
Dundee were still missing Jordan Kelsall and captain Johan Andersson also dropped out of their line-up, allowing rookie, Craig Garrigan to step into his spot. Belfast Giants did not ice four players from their roster.
The first chance went the way of Dundee as Drydn Dow put a long shot on target before Charles Corcoran tried to get the puck past Stephen Murphy. However, the Dundee-born goalie was quick to cover-up for a whistle. Both teams exchanged chances for the first three minutes but the home side had the better of the early opportunities.
Craig Garrigan quickly closed down Stephen Murphy and the Giants keeper’s clearance deflected off Garrigan before luckily landing back in his glove. The first penalty of the match was going to go against Dundee but with a delayed call, Belfast got the extra man on and found a lead in the seventh minute. A pass across the front of goal by Blair Riley to Jonathan Ferland, allowed the forward to score at the back post.
Dundee came straight back and scored after some hard work in the opposition end. Lukas Lundvald drove towards the net but was tied-up before he could get his shot off, although Shawn Boutin came from behind him and looped the puck over the down and out Stephen Murphy in the eighth minute.
Belfast were looking for the lead but Dundee did well to fend them off before Stars gained the first powerplay of the night. The Northern Irish side were called for a too-many men on the ice penalty and it was served by Hunter Bishop in the in the 12thminute. After just 30 seconds, the Giants lost another man as Riley was boxed for cross-checking.
Dundee put heavy pressure on the Giant’s defence but Stephen Murphy did well to keep the puck out. As Bishop was released from the box he got on the end of a long pass and fired a shot into the glove of Pontus Sjögren before they went back to full-strength. A big double save by the Dundee netminder kept the game tied before Matt Marquardt tried to slip a shot under the pad of Stephen Murphy at the other end.
The visitors got their initial man advantage when Dundee defenceman, Petr Chaloupka was called for holding the stick in the 18thminute. Brian Hart had a good chance in front of the Giant’s goal but he could not get his shot past Stephen Murphy and the penalty expired. The teams went into the break level but had both started well.
It was a high-tempo start to the middle period with Belfast aggressively attacking in the Dundee end. Stars took the lead on a two-on-one break after Corcoran fed a pass across to François Bouchard and he drilled his shot past Stephen Murphy in the 23rdminute. The Tayside team looked comfortable and were clogging the blueline as Belfast struggled to break through their defences.
Belfast’s Jim Vandermeer seen his slapshot saved by the leg of Sjögren before a late hit by Francis Beauvillier on a Dundee player in the 28thminute put the home side back on the powerplay. Although, it was the visitors that took advantage, Dustin Johner outskated a tired Connor Cox to go through on a shorthanded breakaway and he finished high past Sjögren to make it 2-2 in the 29thminute.
The penalty ended before Garrigan was next to head to the box as he was deemed guilty of hooking in the 31stminute. After a failed clearance, Belfast came back at Dundee and after making the first save, Sjögren was unable to stop Johner from netting his second goal of the night in the 33rdminute.
A few moments later, Matt Bissonnette robbed Ferland of the puck and in desperation, the Belfast forward hooked Bissonnette with his stick in the 34thminute. However, after 33 seconds on the powerplay it became four-on-four hockey as Boutin hooked a breaking Giant.
The Giants returned to full-strength before it got worse for Omar Pacha’s side when Lukas Lundvald was penalised for high-sticks inside the 36th minute but they quickly regained a fourth skater to help see out most of the Dane’s penalty.
On the penalty kill, there were some game-changing defensive play by Mike Sullivan as he cleared one shot off the line before combining with Sjogren to block a shot on target. Dundee’s penalty was killed off and as Lundvald was released from the box, he gained possession of the puck and went through on the Giants goal.
Lundvald sent a late pass across to Bouchard, who puts his shot off the underside of the bar and tied the game in the 38thminute. The visitors wasted a late two-on-one chance in final ten seconds as they could not connect their passes. Again, both sides were level going into the interval.
Sjögren held onto a shot from David Rutherford early in the third to keep the game tied at 3-3. After the restart, youngster Garrigan played a smart pass into Hart and from the slot he put his shot high past Stephen Murphy in the 46thminute. Belfast went straight back on the attack but were unable to find another way past Sjögren.
Dundee doubled their advantage after some good work by Jordan Cownie led to a pass from Fabrizio Ricci hitting off Marquardt in front of the Giants goal. The puck ended up in the back of Belfast’s net, 55 seconds after the last goal.
The Giants came at Stars hard but some physical work by rookie’s Kris Inglis and Garrigan forced their opponents into a fight for possession. On the next play, Adam Keefe’s men missed a huge chance to cut into the home side’s lead as Josh Roach could not finish into an open goal. Bouchard bagged his hat-trick after another two-on-one break, where Bissonnette squared a pass to the Canadian and he beat Stephen Murphy for a third time in the 51stminute.
Garrigan continued an impressive performance by cutting out passes in the opposition end. However, after three attempts to get the puck in the goal, Riley finally poked it past Sjögren in the 56th minute, to make it 6-4. Kyle Baun tried to get another goal back for Belfast but he could not get his wraparound attempt on target. Adam Keefe opted to use his timeout and re-organise his team for a late fight-back.
The gaolie was pulled and Belfast had six skaters on the ice for over two minutes as they tried to make a comeback. With 41 seconds left in the game, Ricci was getting ahead ofBeauvillier but the Giant was quickly called for holding and that took away any hope they had.
Belfast scored just after the buzzer sounded but referee Tom Darnell denied them of a consolation goal. ‘Man of the Match’ awards went to Blair Riley and Dundee’s hat-trick hero, François Bouchard.
Omar Pacha will now prepare his side for a double-home header against Milton Keynes Lightning and the Sheffield Steelers, as they aim to extend their winning run.