Devil is in the defeat for Belfast Giants
Cardiff Devils 4-2 Belfast Giants (Cardiff win 8-5 on aggregate)
The Belfast Giants' Challenge Cup campaign is over.
Trailing 4-3 from last week's quarter-final first leg against the Cardiff Devils, Steve Thornton's team had to win in Wales last night, but a fourth defeat of the season in the Devils' Big Blue Tent has ended their hopes of making a fifth final in seven seasons.
The night had started so well for the Giants too. Indeed at the end of an extremely tense first period they were 2-0 up thanks to goals from Calvin Elfring and Mike Kompon, which put them ahead in the tie for the first time.
Two goals in the second period put Cardiff back in the driving seat and when they scored another two with little more than half of the third period gone there was no way back for the battling Giants.
Cardiff knew that a positive start would leave the Giants with a lot of work to do and they did have the better of the early stages.
It was the Giants who took the lead at 13:29 though when Kompon set up Elfring to finish on the powerplay which Joey Haddad sat out for a high-sticking penalty to level the aggregate score.
Things got even better for the Giants when Cody Brookwell and Darryl Lloyd created the chance for Kompon to put the Giants in front in the tie with just 80 seconds of the first period to go.
Both teams came out with the intention of attacking at the start of the second period and Cardiff gave themselves a jolt when Brent Walton scored at 25:22 to bring the teams level once again.
A five-on-three penalty in favour of the Devils led to them regaining the aggregate lead just over a minute before the end of the second period.
Kevin Westgarth and Jeff Mason kept each other company in the box as Joey Martin and Haddad created the opening and Carl Hudson provided the finish.
The Giants had outshot their opponents 17-10 in that second period, which gave them hope of scoring the goals that would win the tie, but it was Cardiff who dominated the third period.
They really grasped the initiative when Chris Culligan scored from Walton's assist at 42:19 to give the Devils a two-goal aggregate lead.
The Giants reacted and with nothing to lose they threw everything at the Devils defence, but goaltender Ben Bowns was equal to whatever he had to face.
And when Jake Morrisette hit Cardiff's fourth goal of the night at 50:06 that was it as far as the Giants' hopes of turning the tie around were concerned.
Thornton's men will now focus on trying to retain their league title over the next couple of months before the Play-offs come round.