photos: Nottingham Panthers
The Stena Line Belfast Giants season ended on Sunday night in Nottingham as the Panthers won 5-3 to advance to the PredictorBet Playoff Finals weekend. With the game tied at 7-7 on aggregate, the hosts scored the crucial winning goal in overtime with 26 seconds remaining.
Despite the disappointment of missing out on the Final Four weekend, the Giants season will be defined by the Challenge Cup victory. That win over the Cardiff Devils saw the Belfast side lift their first trophy in four seasons on a memorable night in Cardiff that will live long in the memory of Giants fans.
Giants Dominate Opening 20 Minutes
The Giants, leading 4-3 from Friday’s 1st Leg, struck first through Jonathan Ferland. The forward netted on the powerplay at 3:01, assisted by Jim Vandermeer.
19 seconds later and it was 2-0. This time it was Kevin Raine who, for the first time this season, fired home assisted by Blair Riley and David Rutherford at 3:20.
Jackson Whistle and the Giants showed great team defence throughout the opening period, especially at the halfway point when they impressively killed off a 5-on-3 Panthers powerplay.
Panthers Fight Back In Middle Period
Mark Derlago got the Panthers on the scoreboard early in the middle period, shooting into the Giants net from a tight angle at 23:07.
The Panthers were level on the night when Evan Mosey pounced on the puck in the Giants zone and finished well at 34:58.
Nottingham Edge Final Period
Early into the final period Brett Perlini gave the Panthers the lead on the night and tied things up on aggregate. Perlini’s goal came on a delayed penalty 89 seconds into the final period, assisted by David Clarke.
Yann Sauve gave the Panthers a lead on aggregate at 55:16 with a powerplay strike, assisted by Jeff Brown and David Clarke.
Jim Vandermeer’s strike sent the game into overtime when his shot from the blueline flew into the Nottingham net at 55:46, assisted by Colin Shields and Sebastien Sylvestre.
Panthers Clinch Finals Place
The overtime period was end-to-end and, just when it looked like the game would be decided on penalty shots, the Panthers struck. Dan Spang scored the crucial goal, on a delayed penalty, assisted by Brett Perlini with 26 seconds remanining.
Nottingham Panthers (8) 5-3 (7) Stena Line Belfast Giants
(aggregate score in brackets)
Giants Man of the Match:
#1 Jackson Whistle (24 saves)
The Panthers advance to the PredictorBet Final Four Weekend in Nottingham and will face the Sheffield Steelers in Saturday’s second Semi-Final at 5pm. The Cardiff Devils will take on the Fife Flyers in the opening Semi-Final at 1pm.
The semi-final winners will play-off in Sunday’s Grand Final, face-off 4pm, with the 3rd vs 4th game taking place at 12 noon.
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