On the day that the Belfast Giants 2017/18 Challenge Cup win over the Cardiff Devils was named Northern Ireland’s Top Sporting Moment of 2018 by readers of the Belfast Telegraph, the Dundee Stars rolled into town to continue an interesting series against the men in Teal.
Going into tonight, the sides are 2-2 against each other in League competition, despite Belfast’s destruction of Omar Pacha’s men in the Challenge Cup Quarter Finals last month.
The Belfast Giants third night in three got off to an electric start, with Josh Roach and Kyle Baun setting up Dustin Johner to open the scoring after just four minutes. (1-0)
The well tested Giants Penalty Kill unit was then called into action for the first time as David Rutherford sat for slashing just a few moments later.
Not only did they survive, but Adam Keefe’s men were to double the tally on the 10 minute mark through a well worked Blair Riley pass to Darcy Murphy who made no mistake about ripping the puck past Pontus Sjogren. (2-0)
The action paused following another successful Giants penalty kill (Boxill, interference) to recognise the 1000th professional game of one Jim Vandermeer.
A loud and lengthy round of applause filled the SSE Arena, and the ice pad, as a montage of Vandermeer’s career to date throughout the NHL, AHL and EIHL rolled on the big screens- ending with a live shot of the man himself who paused to recognise the home fans.
The Dundee Stars took advantage of the pause in play, getting back underway by opening their tally on the night through a well worked Charles Corcoran goal on the 14 minute mark. (2-1)
A Darcy Murphy holding call opened the door for Dundee’s Assistant Captain Brian Hart to strike the visitors level at 19.38, assited by Charles Corcoran and Francois Bouchard. (2-2)
An extremely uneventful second period passed with no change to the scoreboard- perhaps the Belfast Giants beginning to show signs of fatigue- before Dundee’s Connor Cox headed to the box for tripping at 38.39.
Decent Giants Power Play pressure saw out the middle period, but Adam Keefe’s side were unable to take advantage before the buzzer.
Belfast had the man advantage to begin the final third, but the Stars PK unit took care of the danger. The home side were at this point comfortably outshooting the visitors 29-15, but tiredness was definitely becoming more of a factor in the 9th period of weekend.
Jim Vandermeer was to pick up 2 minutes for crosschecking, before Referee Andy Dalton took exception to the Giants #9’s reaction on the way to the penalty box, taking on an extra two minutes for abuse of an official.
The Giants penalty kill successfully dug deep to keep the Stars at bay, but at 51.46 a terrible defensive zone turnover saw Dundee’s Brian Hart set up Charles Corcoran to fire past Tyler Beskorowany from the right hand side. (2-3)
The Giants were handed a lifeline at 55.17 as Connor Cox sat for tripping- with Patrick Dwyer coming agonisingly close against the crossbar and inside post around one minute in.
Adam Keefe called a timeout with 2.19 left in the game as the Giants attempted to rally the troops for one last push. Dustin Johner struck iron AGAIN for the Giants as the arena collectively gasped.
Tyler Beskorowany was pulled within the final minute, and despite immense pressure the home side were unable to convert, and Omar Pacha’s Dundee Stars left the SSE Arena with two precious points.