Heading into Hogmanay there were reasons to be cheerful for Dundee Stars’ fans. The previous week they had split the points in a home and home versus Fife Flyers and held out for an impressive road win against league title challengers Belfast Giants. With a record of 12-13-8 the much coveted .500 record, that will be crucial to any playoff aspirations, seemed well within reach. A look ahead at the schedule showed another home and home, this time versus Glasgow Clan as well as a home tie with bottom of the table MK Lightning. Whether the issue was too much turkey or not is still unknown but it felt like a different team returned for the year 2019’s first three fixtures.
The first of the three came against Glasgow Clan at home. To date the Stars were 1-0-2 versus their West Coast counterparts in all competitions, with both shootout losses coming as part of Stars’ early season struggle with regulation wins. The expectation going in was at the least a competitive game but the actuality was less so. Giving Clan too much respect and being second on too many pucks were the main issues. As such, Matt Beca and Brendan Connolly currently fourth and twelfth respectively in league scoring, made them pay. Another night on the Powerplay at 0/5 didn’t help, even one conversion may have given the game a different look. However, a consolation tally and a beauty at that from Brian Hart gave fans something to cheer about in a 4-1 loss.
The following night and again at Dundee Ice Arena, the Stars faced MK Lightning but this time without starter Pontus Sjögren. Which meant Craig Holland would be given the start and Matthew Michie of the Scottish National League’s Dundee Comets would serve as backup. In terms of overall performance the Stars did a lot of things right. Out-chancing the opposition 3-1 and putting 52 pucks on net, nine times out of ten it’s a game they win. Unfortunately on this occasion MK Lightning goaltender Adam Goss was dialled in, in a big way. Employing the only real method to counter such an offset in opportunities created by stonewalling much of the Stars’ grade A chances. Goss produced a 0.942 SV% to Holland’s 0.826 SV%. Although the Stars could have been more clinical with their looks it seems reasonable to file this one under “hot goalie.”
It appeared something in the region of 200-300 fans made the trip to Glasgow for the return leg although most would probably wish they hadn’t. Clan got off to a very good start, winning battles in the attacking zone and burying their chances. By the time it came to a blown call on a high stick near the end of the first period the game was already over at 4-0. Blown in the sense that Fabrizio Ricci was quite clearly the culprit, but the errant stick missed by every official. This resulted in a the revisionist call that put Lundvald in the box as the Stars’ preferred Ricci to play on the PK. Clan added two on the ensuing powerplay and the the game was now more than out of reach for the visitors.
The conditions for Stars’ to bounce back after three such loses didn’t look great either. Their first opportunity a home and home against Sheffield Steelers who were looking to snap their own winless streak of 0-3. The Streelers holding still a perfect record against Omar Pacha there was enough at stake for both games to hold significance at this point in the season. Before the weekend’s matches however came the announcement that Jordan Cownie would get the nod to compete with GB Men’s against KHL side Dinamo Riga in a friendly next month. Much deserved and here’s hoping he can give a fair account of his game. He’s been great to watch so far.
On to Sheffield and the Stars needed to salvage something after earning only one point from an available six the week prior. It would require something big but thankfully there were a number of Stars’ players on hand to put up the performances necessary to correct recent form. Truly from the net out Pontus Sjogren was back to his regular self posting a 0.936 on 44 saves from 47 shots. Drydn Dow had himself a night with three assists on the PP as they went 3 for 6 overall. A hat trick from Fabrizio Ricci at 3+1 and a massive 5 point night for Francois Bouchard, no streak would hold against this performance and the visitors left with a 6-3 win and the two points.
With that page turned, the team returned home to attempt the same feat again. Only this time there was another factor in play. As part of the opening ceremonies Marquardt led a tribute to Bronwyn Farquharson, a seven year old Stars fan who had recently lost her battle against a rare type of cancer. The team’s play showing a real spark, they skated to easily their most comfortable win of the season 6-1. Chosen to read before the game as Bronwyn’s favourite player, Marquardt scored two goals eleven seconds apart in the second period to bury the game and was awarded Man of the Match. It served as a reminder of how much hockey’s important and significance can be dwarfed by real life but also the sport’s ability to connect people. This was certainly a game that will stay with many who were involved in it for a long time.
Photo credit: Derek Black