Panthers Aim For Playoff Glory

Corey Neilson’s Nottingham Panthers will entertain Belfast Giants this Saturday, in the first semi-final of this season’s Viaplay Elite League Play-Offs, at their own, Motorpoint Arena.

Having overcome the stern challenge of Guildford Flames last weekend, the Flames having finished second in the final standings of the Elite League season, the Panthers, who finished in seventh, certainly took the game to their opponents over the two-game weekend.

Narrowly emerging 7-6 on aggregate, the Panthers, who collected 47 points from their 54 games in the league, and scored 149 goals during the season, went into the tie with the Flames having collected successes against Manchester Storm, and Glasgow Clan, in their previous four.

Form though, has been erratic throughout the season, but here, they did enough to progress having claimed a stunning, 4-1 win at home, in the first leg, on Saturday (8 April) night.

Stephen Anderson afforded the hosts a first period lead, before going on to hit the pipes, Kelly Summers then saw an effort saved by Eamon McAdam, before Tanner Sorenson hit the crossbar; meanwhile, at the other end, Peyton Jones was keeping the Flames, doused.

Into the second period and Adam Brady ripped home the second, from the left circle, before Sorenson slotted home a rebound, for his 19th of the season, after Summers saw another effort saved by McAdam.

David Levin then capitalised on a defensive effort to put the Panther in a commanding position, before Daniel Tedesco pulled one back; the Panthers though, continued to go all-out attack as Levin, Jeremy Welsh, Niko Lahtinen, and Matthew Myers, all had opportunities to extend the lead.

Captain, Matthew Myers, talked to PanthersTV about the quarter-final success (among other things), saying: “On Saturday night, we played really, really good hockey, and Sunday (night) I think we were scared to go and win the hockey game, and it showed in the first period.

“Credit to Guildford, they came out all guns blazing and were up three in the first ten minutes, and we were thinking, oh my god, we need to stamp our authority on the game or it’ll be over before we know it.

“Thankfully, we got two goals in the first period, made it 3-2, which really did massively help us; but again, credit to Guildford, they didn’t stop in the third period and got two more goals.

“(It) really put us under a lot of pressure to get through that game, but we did it.

“It wasn’t the prettiest, but you don’t have to win pretty, you just have to win, so we’re happy to be there.”

Watch the interview here

The following night, in Guildford, carried on in much the same vein as the first had, with goals galore, a further eight being added in this two-legged tie, but not before Jordan Kelsall (Panthers) and Turner Ripplinger (Flames) went at it in front of goal.

Quickly though, the tie was levelled at 4-4 when during an eight-minute spell, the Flames added three, Ryan Tait with a quick-fire brace, and Peter Crinella, during a powerplay, cutting in from the right to score.

Sorenson was on-hand to restore the Panthers lead, fed by Mike Hammond, who then swept home himself, from Albin Lindgren, to re-open a two-goal cushion; Lindgren then added another for the Panthers, putting their advantage back at three.

However, Brett Ferguson kept the Flames burning when netting just seconds later, before Tait completed his hat-trick, the contest now, very finely balanced, at 7-6 in favour of the Panthers, who put on a monumental, rear-guard action, in the closing stages, to see out the win.

Now, it’s a one-off clash with the Giants, they having finished the season top of the pile, and a hefty goal-difference of +118 during the regular season, for a place in the Grand Final; in the other side of the draw, the Sheffield Steelers (third) and Cardiff Devils (fourth), battle it out.

Panthers net-minder, Peyton Jones, added: “It’s been good, a great weekend; the guys played hard, played really good, and got the win, so I’m excited for what’s ahead.

“I’m excited (for the semi-final, against former club, Belfast Giants, and his first play-offs experience), I’ve heard great things and Nottingham have great fans, so I’m excited to come here and play in front of our fans at home.”

Watch his interview here

Finals weekend will see the Panthers face the Giants (3pm) followed by the Steelers and the Devils (7pm) on Saturday 15 April (doors open at 1:30pm), whilst the following day is that of 3rd vs. 4th at 1pm, followed by the Grand Final itself, at 5pm, on Sunday 16 April (doors at 11:30am) – tickets are available from here

*Article provided by Peter Mann (Senior Correspondent).

*Main image @PanthersImages the Panthers will take on Belfast in Friday’s semi-final.

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