Three goals in four first period minutes saw Braehead Clan seal the Gardiner Conference in a hard fought encounter against conference rivals Dundee Stars at a packed Braehead Arena on Saturday night.
Both sides entered the game with much to play for; for Braehead a win would see them named conference champions and also secure a play-off berth. A win for Dundee would take the conference decider to the Stars home turf in 7 days time. As a result both sides looked edgy in the opening exchanges with neither side fashioning an opening due to a spate of misplaced passes. Braehead were unable to capitalise on the opening power play but the second such play changed the game. Braehead’s C Cowick and Dundee’s J Faryna both in the penalty box for fighting; with the Dundee man receiving a total of 17 minutes for his part as instigator.
Braehead seemed to cope with the reduced numbers on the ice better than their opponents and a long range effort by C Carlson broke the deadlock with 7:46 on the clock. Less than two minutes later M Beca’s deflected shot sneaked into the Dundee goal before the third goal in the Eleventh minute gave Braehead a firm grip in the first period and the game. From that point on a shell shocked Dundee huffed and puffed but made no real inroads into a stalwart Braehead defence backed by M Zajkowski in fine form between the sticks. Braehead though were their own worst enemy and instead of pushing on they instead contrived to make their life more difficult by conceding a spate of penalties which saw them down a further man for the final 6 minutes of the period. The purple line held and Braehead went into the first interval with a healthy 3-0 lead.
The Second period was a more disciplined and balanced affair. An early score by C Tanaka briefly gave Dundee hope and triggered more than a few nervous looks from Braehead fans until a stunning solo effort from A Leavitt restored the 3 goal advantage and settled the nerves one again 4 minutes later. After that both sides effectively canceled the other out and Braehead went into the final break with their three goal lead intact.
The Third followed a similar pattern with Dundee seeing a lot of the puck but not managing to do a great deal with it. A brief flash point between Dundee’s J Sides and Brae heads J Rosehill threatened to burst into a second fight but both players managed to avoid fisticuffs (though both would wind up in the penalty boxes within 30 seconds of each other). The final buzzer was greeted by a relieved roar from the Braehead faithful who had seen their team become conference champions despite becoming their own worst enemies in a game that was never quite as comfortable as the 4-1 scoreline suggested.