Belfast Giants 8 Dundee Stars 5
In front of their home fans, the Belfast Giants finished their regular season Elite League campaign on a high with an 8-5 win over the Dundee Stars at the SSE Arena.
The Giants’ top goal scorer Sébastien Sylvestre underlined his prowess in front of goal by scoring a hat-trick in the win as Adam Keefe’s side head into the season-ending playoffs off the back of a big victory.
Both sides started their backup netminders, Andrew Dickson between the pipes for Belfast and Craig Holland donned the pads for Dundee, with the hosts welcoming back Cole Jarrett, John Kurtz and David Rutherford to the line-up.
A rather mundane start to the game eventually saw the first period spark into life after the Giants took the lead at 10:34, Holland unable to glove Darcy Murphy’s shot from the high slot with captain Blair Riley finishing the rebound.
Marc-Olivier Mimar had a great chance to level moments later, but he couldn’t control with an empty cage to finish into, and that error was compounded at 16:10 when Sébastien Sylvestre doubled Belfast’s lead after finishing a two on one with Brendan Connolly.
The third wasn’t long in coming, at 16:59, when Darcy Murphy tipped in a long pass from Kevin Raine at the crease, and the lead at the intermission was four when some great passing from Brandon Benedict and Matt Towe saw Sylvestre snap home his second from the left circle at 18:54.
But the Stars did find a response early in the second period on the powerplay, Ryan Martinelli culpable for misplaying the puck at the blue line allowing Johan Andersson to skate in on Dickson and finish backhanded at 21:26.
Despite that early setback, it was the Giants who dominated the second period too, David Rutherford and Benedict both hitting the pipes with efforts while Holland made an excellent glove stop on Sylvestre’s shot from the slot.
It looked like they mightn’t get the reward, but at 39:57 with the 5-on-3 advantage they did get their fifth goal, Spiro Goulakos firing in one of his almighty slapshots from the top of the right circle that went under Holland’s pads and in.
The d-man hit the post to start the third period, but again the visitors struck early as they got their second on the powerplay, Lukas Lundvald Nielsen rattling a well struck slapshot over Dickson’s glove side and in at 42:25.
Sylvestre then rattled the iron twice in his search for a hat-trick, Holland well beaten on both occasions, but it was Jonathan Ferland who got on the scoresheet next when he deflected a Goulakos shot out of the air and into the twine at 48:21.
Brendan Connolly added the Giants’ seventh at 52:19, wristing home a shot five hole from the right faceoff dot, before two goals in nine seconds saw the visitors strike back and Sylvestre deservedly grab his hat-trick.
It was Jordan Cownie who nabbed Dundee’s third at 54:27, the British forward finishing from the slot after a pass from behind the net, before Sylvestre banked a shot in off the back of Holland’s skates at 54:36 for his third of the night.
But the Stars finished the stronger and, with no playoff action to look forward to, they finished their season on a high as Johan Andersson struck again at 58:38 before he set up their fifth, passing back into the slot for Cody Carlson to tap home five hole at 59:18.
For the Giants, however, they now have a play-off to look forward to against the Nottingham Panthers next weekend as they seek to reach Finals Weekend yet again.
Man of the Match: Sébastien Sylvestre (Belfast Giants)