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Belfast Giants coach Walser left irate by ref's late call during Panthers clash

Angry Belfast Giants coach Derrick Walser slammed referee Stefan Hogarth after being thrown out of the game seconds before the end of his team's 3-2 defeat to the Nottingham Panthers.

Walser blasted the official for making what he branded a "selfish call" that led to the five-on-three powerplay from which Nottingham scored their winning goal with nine minutes to go.

And the irate Giants coach claimed that the 4,700 crowd in the SSE Arena were robbed of the possibility of seeing a thrilling finish to the game.

"You can't always harp on about the referees, but in my opinion he really messed up a championship game," said Walser.

"It was two teams battling for first, us trying to close the gap on Nottingham and he ruined it with nine minutes left in the game."

Nottingham had led at the end of the first period when Steven Lee struck at 15:16.

James Desmarais continued his impressive goalscoring form this season when he fired home the equaliser at 24:34.

Jeff Dimmen put the Panthers ahead for the second time at 30:02, before Chris Higgins netted a beauty to put the Giants back on level terms five minutes into the third period - taking a hit from Matthew Myers in the process, which cost the Nottingham man two minutes in the penalty box and could see him brought before the Elite League's disciplinary panel this week.

The real drama, however, came five minutes later.

Higgins had just been sent to the box for a cross-checking offence when 35 seconds later, Kris Beech collided with Panthers' David Clarke.

It appeared to be little more than two players coming together, but Hogarth deemed it to be a boarding offence against Beech, handing the Panthers a two-man advantage in the process.

Just 45 seconds into the five-on-three, Juraj Kolnik finished neatly for what turned out to be the winner and when Hogarth then penalised the Giants for having too many men on the ice in the dying seconds of the game, Walser let rip and was subsequently thrown out.

"I'm not disappointed in the guys. I thought the guys had a great weekend, it was one of our better weekends," said Walser.

"I know we didn't get the results that we wanted, but I feel bad because technically we didn't lose the game.

"We didn't lose the game. Technically I thought it was taken from us.

"The guys battled hard, there was a great crowd, they were into it, it's just disappointing how one man on the ice can ruin it."

Hogarth had also been in charge on Friday night when the Giants beat Nottingham 4-3 in a fantastic contest.

Walser accepted his decision to rule out a Craig Peacock goal during that game, but refused to accept that he made the right calls on Saturday and the Giants player-coach is now demanding that the Elite League examine referee's performances, particularly as they could be the difference between winning the league or not.

"I wasn't hard on him with the no-goal call on Friday night," he said.

"I spoke to him pretty respectfully for five and a half periods and then he calls the softest penalty I have seen in a long time, where it really meant nothing.

"It was really soft and then he has the nerve to put us down five-on-three right away.

"The league has got to start looking into this stuff because two points or one point is very important for every team when it's as tight as it is right now.

"You could lose the league by one point just because of a selfish call by a referee who thinks he's going to make a stamp on a game like that.

"It's hard for me to bite my tongue on it. I feel bad for the guys because they battled hard and they deserved the chance to finish the game whatever way it would have went - overtime, shoot-out, five-on-five.

"Even if we don't win the game, it doesn't matter if we'd have lost in regulation, the guys played hard and we deserved to finish the game playing hard and whatever would have happened, happened, but now I feel like we just got robbed of the opportunity to see what would have happened."

Belfast Telegraph