Giants lay down a marker for final battle
BELFAST GIANTS 4 - NOTTINGHAM 1
The Belfast Giants have given themselves a massive psychological edge going into next week's Challenge Cup final battle with the Nottingham Panthers.
The Elite League champions smashed through the 200-goal barrier by beating the Panthers 4-1 at the Odyssey Arena last night.
Nottingham will return to Belfast next Friday for the first leg of the final and the Giants will be relishing those contests as they chase a trophy treble.
The Panthers will have wanted to lay down some sort of a marker ahead of the final, but they were never really in the game after Chris Higgins and Jeffrey Szwez put the Giants 2-0 up in the first period.
Kevin Saurett sealed the win in the third period and although Robert Farmer pulled one back for the Panthers, David Phillips netted a late empty-net goal to kill off any hopes of a comeback.
The early stages of the game were tight and it wasn't until 13:44 that the Giants took the lead. Saurette and Evan Cheverie combined to create the opportunity and Higgins finished off.
It was 2-0 within two minutes. Calvin Elfring brought the puck out of defence, found Dustin Whitecotton and Szwez turned it into the net past Craig Kowalski.
The first period finished with a flare-up after Giants winger Darryl Lloyd clashed with Matt Ryan. Lloyd was deemed guilty of slashing while the Panther was hit with a roughing penalty.
There was no scoring in the second period, but as Nottingham began to get on top early in the third the Giants scored again.
Higgins and Cheverie were the creators this time as Saurette finished to score his 35th goal of the season at 46:41.
When Farmer pulled one back, the Panthers took out Kowalski but when Robby Sandrock stole the puck he fed David Phillips, who sent it into the empty net to secure victory.