I had been to a few Stars games during their time in the BNL and I’d seen a few once they joined the Elite League. While I enjoyed them, to be honest, none of them really grabbed me and made me want to go every week. Then this game came around……
The 2010/11 Playoff ¼ Final second leg. The game that should have been over before it started. But it didn’t turn out that way.....and yes, I do have the complete game on DVD :-)
The Stars had headed back up the M6 on the wrong end of a 6-1 game with only a Steve Makway marker to show for their efforts in Sheffield in the first leg. The tie was over, right? The Steelers were through to the Semi Finals, right? That may have been the script but no one told Dan Ceman and his men. They had other ideas.
I turned up on a Saturday night with no expectation of anything after the first leg result. I almost didn’t bother going, the tie was done, and we were out. But, I'd seen this Playoff Inspiration Video from Stars TV:-
Also, it was a Saturday night, I have no social life and it was only a tenner to get in so I arrived and will be forever glad I did.
The first period saw no goals but plenty close calls and, at the first break I’m thinking – “maybe we can still do something here”. Then, right at the start of the second, Dowd sticks one past Kudrna to make the score 7-1 on aggregate to the Steelers and I’m thinking “Ah well, I’ll just finish my hot dog then I’ll head off”. But then things started to get interesting.
Half way through the second, up steps Steve Makway who fires a cross ice pass to Mark Nebus who moves down the right hand side from the blue line and rattles the twine to Mustokovs left and equalises the game on the night. I’m thinking “Too little too late? Aye, probably”.
Then, just as the second is coming to a close, Mark Nebus goes on a mazey from one end to the other, round the goal and passes to Matt Suderman who spots John Dolan (who else) lurking on the door step, fires the puck in and JD gladly accepts to knock it over the line. 2-1 Stars on the night. Is that a hint of hope I feel now? Too right it is.
Into the final period and the Steelers surely feel they are in a game now. Outshot all night and the Stars aren’t giving up like they were supposed to. Nebus is chasing after everything. MacLean is chipping away at them. It’s game on. Then, straight out of an underdog sports movie, Makway and Nebus combine to put the Stars 3-1 up on the night and now there’s only 3 goals in it on aggregate and the Stars are on fire. Makway shoots from the point and in front with the tip is Mark Nebus for his second of the night. If it wasn’t game on before, it is now. I’m thinking “Come on, let’s do this” now. And I’ve moved from my seat to the plexi. I’m nervous now.
Barely a minute passes and BOOM! It’s 4-1 and a two goal game. The noise as this goal went in was probably the best noise I’ve ever heard in the DIA (with the possible exception of when we won the Gardiner Conference). It’s proper exciting now. We’re gonna do it. We’re gonna beat them. Their fans had been quiet for ages and they were positively stunned now. The puck comes loose from a face off in the Stars offensive zone, falls nicely for Sam McCluskey, who hits the one timer straight to the back of the net and the Stars fans go crazy. I’m thinking “still 10 minutes left, only need 2 more” Sheffield time out. They’ve got the fear now.
It’s funny how a few goals can change your perception. This is edge of your seat stuff. It’s right off a movie script. The baddies playing in black, throwing their weight around much to the annoyance of the home crowd. The goodies in white, playing with no expectation whatsoever, revelling in the support from the stands.
In the final period, Mustokovs makes 20 saves – almost as many as the other two periods put together. I don’t know how many he made in the final nine minutes but it felt like 436.
A.J MacLean went through on goal only to end up clattering into the boards behind the goal. Was he brought down? Was it a penalty shot? Not according to Mr Darnell. So close.
Brent Hughes turns and shoots – Mustokovs saves. So close.
Jeff Legue through one on one with Kudrna – misses. So close.
MacLean gets a loose puck with the goal open. Mustokovs across his line to block. So close.
Final minute now – goalie pulled.
There’s still time, we’re all over them.
The crowd are going mental.
Hughes fires from the blue line – saved. So close.
Then the puck breaks loose. Stars can’t get it back. Ashley Tait collects it and skates off up the ice with it all alone. He’ll surely miss. We can still do this………
But it wasn’t to be. Ashley Tait doesn’t miss empty netters. He scores. It’s 4-2 on the night and 8-5 on aggregate.
Looking at the score, it doesn’t even look close but I swear we were within touching distance of beating the Steelers that night and making the Playoff Final Weekend. Another 5 minutes and maybe we would have, who knows.
What a game though. From having gone in expecting nothing to the excitement levels at the end was a true sporting roller coaster. I’m stood there at the end clapping my team off the ice feeling nothing but pride and admiration for the way they scared the bejesus out of the Steelers. For the way they kept finding extra gears and, against all the odds, made a game out of a 6-1 deficit. One of the best games I’ve seen and we didn’t even win. But that roller coaster is what we pay for. We want to succeed against the odds, against the big boys.
So, in true Scottish fashion, glorious failure is up there with great wins and tough contests for my all-time favourite games. Was it close at all? Well, it was in my mind and that’s the story I’m sticking to.
Here's what Dan Ceman and Brent Hughes had to say in their post-game interview with Stars TV:-