The Nottingham Panthers took home two out of a possible four points after one victory and one loss in their Belfast double-header weekend.
Backed by a big travelling support, Corey Neilson’s side bounced back from a disappointing 5-2 loss on Friday night to claim a 4-3 penalty shootout victory on Saturday.
Alex Dubeau started both games in the Panthers goal, while fellow netminder Jack Berry, young defenceman Archie Hazeldine and the injured Duggie Lagrone were scratched on both nights.
Friday night’s game got the weekend off to the worst possible start from a Panthers perspective as the Giants took an early lead with just 4.39 on the clock, with Sean Norris tipping in a David Gilbert shot for his first goal in Giants colours and his first ever in the Elite League.
Adam Keefe’s side doubled their lead after 6.25 as Gabe Bast lifted a speculative backhand effort into the roof of the Panthers net after a face-off win by Scott Conway.
After 10.45 it was three as the Giants’ powerplay broke into the Panthers’ zone three on two, Conway found Ben Lake in the right face-off circle with a cross-ice pass and he made no mistake, firing a wrist-shot into the back of Dubeau’s net.
Panthers got themselves back into the game just 31 seconds later as Kelly Summers’ shot from the blueline was turned in by Fabrizio Ricci. The hope was short-lived however just over two minutes later, GB men Lake and Lewis Hook combined to set up the latter to fire a shot under the body of Dubeau to make it 4-1 to the hosts.
Panthers’ first period misery was compelled when Sam Ruopp fired a huge slap-shot through traffic and into the corner of the net to make it 5-1 after just 15.56. That goal saw Dubeau replaced between the posts by 18-year-old local boy Matty Bloor, as Neilson made a bid to shake up his defence.
With Dubeau back in the crease for the final two periods, Panthers steadied the ship and added a consolation goal with just under two minutes of the third and final period remaining, as Jordan Kelsall poked the puck home following a scramble in front of the Belfast net.
Saturday’s game started in a similar vein as the Giants once again took an early lead, this time after just 2.22, when a fortunate bounce off Jordan Kelsall presented Ciaran Long with an easy finish into an empty net.
Panthers levelled after 16.39 after some great energy from Tanner Sorenson behind the Giants’ net saw him create a chance for Adam Brady, who fired in off the post to bring the Panthers back on terms.
Early into the second period, the Panthers had their first lead of the weekend as Mike Hammond sent Brett Welychka through on a breakaway. The Panthers’ top goal scorer showed great skill to beat Tyler Beskorowany in the Giants goal on the breakaway and score his 19th league goal of the season.
The lead didn’t last long though as Belfast levelled at 27.43 through the ever-dangerous Conway. David Goodwin and Josh Roach combined to feed the league’s top point scorer, and his close range shot trickled through the body of Dubeau and over the goal-line.
Belfast went ahead again at 29.47, when Henrik Eriksson carried the puck behind the Panthers net and found Bast, who hammered home to make it 3-2.
However, the third period saw Neilson’s men battle back, with Adam Brady scoring his second of the game through a superb re-direct to force overtime.
A chaotic 5-minute period of 3 on 3 overtime saw both netminders make some big saves as Conway, Roach and Welychka all spurned breakaway chances to win it for their respective sides.
The Panthers claimed the extra point in the shootout with Dubeau repelling all four of the Giants’ efforts and Craig Puffer and Kelly Summers converting for the visitors.
The two points sees the Panthers remain in sixth place in the Viaplay Elite League ahead of their trip North of the border to face the resurgent Glasgow Clan on Friday night.
*Article provided by Evan Shaw (Nottingham Panthers Correspondent).
*Main image @PanthersIHC the Panthers had better luck on Saturday night having lost on Friday in Belfast.