Nottingham Panthers cling on to lift the Challenge Cup
NOTTINGHAM Panthers survived a last-ditch comeback from Cardiff Devils to lift the Challenge Cup despite a narrow second leg defeat at the TrentFM Arena.
Returning to home ice with a 4-2 lead after the first leg in Cardiff, the Panthers were downed 5-4 on Tuesday but did enough to secure an 8-7 victory and send more than five thousand fans into rapture.
The Devils flew out of the blocks and romped into a two-goal lead, courtesy of goals from Tylor Michel and Wes Jarvis, ensuring the aggregate scores were level at 4-4.
Before the first period was over, the Panthers pulled a goal back through player-coach Corey Neilson, who netted his 13th of the season, to hand the aggregate lead back to Nottingham.
Max Birbraer restored the Devils' two-goal advantage on the night on 25 minutes but three goals in four minutes for the Panthers handed them a 4-3 lead on the night and moved the Nottingham outfit to within touching distance of the cup.
Firstly, Marty Gascon grabbed his 14th of the season before Marc Levers levelled at 3-3 on 29 minutes, while a 36th goal of the campaign for David Clarke completed the turnaround, just after the half-hour mark.
A second of the match for Birbraer ensured it was 4-4 heading into the final period and as you were on aggregate with the Panthers maintaining their overall two-goal advantage.
And while Mark Smith grabbed a goal back for Cardiff to ensure a nervous last few minutes, the Panthers clung on lift the Challenge Cup for the second time in three years.