Dundee Stars 4 Belfast Giants 2
Timi Lahtinen’s late strike just 2:12 from the final buzzer condemned the Belfast Giants to their first defeat of the season as they fell 4-2 to the Dundee Stars at the Dundee Ice Arena.
Despite dragging themselves out of a 2-0 hole through a pair of second period goals — David Goodwin notching his fourth in as many games and Sam Ruopp pocketing his first in teal — the Giants couldn’t find a third and saw their three-game win streak snapped in Scotland.
They got 33 saves from starter Jackson Whistle in a strong performance from the GB netminder, but at the other end the Giants couldn’t break down Stars goaltender Adam Morrison on enough occasions, the Canadian turning away a remarkable 49 shots.
The defeat likely won’t prove too damaging for the Giants as they still lead the way in their Challenge Cup group with six points from four games, but this will be a tough loss for head coach Adam Keefe to stomach given they defeated the same opponents 2-0 at the SSE Arena on Friday night, while the Stars were likely more fatigued having played on Saturday, this being their third game of the weekend, while the Giants were rested having sat out the day in between.
The first answer the coach will need will be how to solve their discipline issue, which saw them take 10 minutes of penalties in the first period alone, which left them two goals down.
Dundee’s first came after just 3:05, Scott Conway heading off for a trip and Charlie Combs quickly making the visitors pay, taking the feed from Michael Poirier to fire over Whistle’s glove side to make it 1-0.
And the Giants were punished for failing to heed the warning as, at exactly the halfway point of the first frame, Ciaran Long was given two minutes for a tripping call and Combs struck again.
Remarkably, the Giants continued to leave themselves shorthanded as J.J. Piccinich and Jordan Boucher both took calls to leave them facing a 5-on-3, and then Ruopp headed off as well.Howeverm this time they rallied to kill off the three penalties.
Whistle needed to come through for them at the start of the second period when he froze Spencer Dorowicz on a shorthanded breakway, and the same man had another great chance off a giveaway from Boucher, but Whistle was there again for the stop.
Having cost them in the first period, the Giants’ special teams got them back into it, taking advantage of a slashing call on Lahtinen to get on the board, Goodwin finishing his own rebound at 8:18 to make it 2-1, and the visitors would deservedly head in at the second intermission level as Conway’s pass from behind the net didn’t connect with its intended target, but it did find Sam Ruopp trailing at the blue-line and the defenceman smashed it home for 2-2 at 16:04.
But after both sides passed up powerplay opportunities in the third to take the lead, Lahtinen settled it with his late winner to break Giants hearts, with Dillon Lawrence’s empty netter with 59 seconds left making sure the visitors would not come back.