#POFW17 - Stars finally bow to Cardiff

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Before the doors opened, the corridor outside Dundee Stars dressing-room was a hive of activity.

The players were limbering up playing head tennis and keepie uppie, while the equipment team went about their duties.

Sandwiched in between the tables sat coach Matt Lefebvre making final notes.

He really got his plans spot-on.

Stars started this game as underdogs, up against a Cardiff Devils side in search of a Grand Slam.

His interviews in midweek spoke of the pressure being on the Welsh side, but it was also clear he wasn’t just bringing his side all the way from Tayside to make up the numbers.

When the puck dropped, the simply executed their own game plan.

There were no signs of nerves as they settled early.

Devils had by far the best chance of the opening exchanges, as Joey Martin’s pass from the backboards at 3:20 landed perfectly for Sean Bentivoglio, but he couldn’t finish.

Stars took the let-off in their stride, and kept going at Cardiff, creating some tempting chances in the process with Vinny Scarsella being a complete menace to the defence.

They got the go-ahead goal after 12 minutes as defenceman Kevin Hart fired home from the point. It was no more than they deserved.

A second goal followed after 18 minutes, and it was a gem; Scarsella out on the plexi delivered the perfect drop pass for Brett Switzer to hit the bottom left of Ben Bown’s net.

Devils were expected to come out strong at the start of the second period. That they didn’t was down to Dundee - they didn’t let them.

Stars’ hard work in their zone contained Devils’ potent snipers and playmakers, and it could easily have been 3-2 as Joey Sides and Scott Brannon both carved out excellent opportunities.

Devils finally found a way back into this semi-final tie after 26 minutes when they punished Kevin Hart for coughing up the puck in his own zone. They teed up Joey Haddad, and rang the red light.

The goal did finally galvanise Devils and they started to apply pressure, but Stars rode the waves and came back just as strong, just as unflustered, and just as dangerous at the other end of the pad.

Cardiff keyed into Scarsella - they clearly saw him as a threat - with one huge hit from Mark Loius making its mark as the Dundee forward hit the plexi and then the ice.

In the end, their strength was key as they tied the game, went ahead and then sealed their place all in the final period. . That’s why this team keeps winning silverware and reaching showcase finals.

Devils tied the game after 43 minutes as Mark Louis moved quickly to bury a puck that was bouncing around the front of the net.

The killer blow then came with just under eight minutes remaining when Andrew Lord pulled the trigger, and his shot was knocked down by netminder Joe Fallon, only to see Joey Martin bury the rebound.

Stars ended the game on a powerplay - a call for holding the stick with 2:31 to play against Scott Hotham - and they gambled by pulling Fallon for a six on four finale.

The puck movement looked tired as they had little left in the tank, and, inevitably, Devils hit the empty net with just eight seconds remaining; Andrew Hotham lifting the puck high and firing it down the ice.

An immense effort from Stars on their finals debut. One that took them so close to success.

Cardiff Devils 4, Dundee Stars 2

Period scores: 0-2, 1-0, 3-0

PIMs: 2-2

SOGs: Devils (Bowns) 26, Stars (Fallon) 37

Devils scoring: Martin (1+1), Louis, Hotham, Haddad (1+0), Lord ()=2), Ulmer, Asselin, (0+1)

stars scoring: Hart, Switzer (1+0), Faryne, Scarsella (0+2).