Heartbreak for the Belfast Giants as Arlan secure Continental Cup in thrilling shootout
Arlan Kokshetau 3-2 Belfast Giants (PS)
A heartbreaking finish to the Continental Cup saw the Belfast Giants finish runners-up to Arlan Kokshetau after the Kazakhs beat them 3-2 on penalty shots.
Yevgeni Gasnikov scored twice in the shootout to give Arlan the win after the Giants battled back from two goals down to take the game to overtime and then to the dreaded shootout.
It was a winner-takes-all game after both sides won their opening two games in the group, with the hosts losing in the toughest way possible after one of the best games that will grace the SSE Arena this season.
The first chance of the game fell to Darcy Murphy, who got his shot away in the slot but saw it blocked by Ivan Poloshkov in the Arlan goal, while Vadim Berdnikov had a rebound well saved by Tyler Beskorowany.
Despite Belfast applying all the pressure, it was the Kazakhs who took the lead at 11:51 when Sergei Yegorov hit a hopeful shot from the blueline that went through traffic and beat Beskorowany low.
Some good work from Mark Garside and Patrick Dwyer provided Kyle Baun a chance out front but he couldn't apply the finishing touch, and once again Arlan made them pay when Vadim Yermolayev tipped in Vladimir Malevich's shot at 18:08 to double the lead.
The Giants had two great chances to pull one back early in the second period, Josh Roach's shot tipped inches wide by Dwyer while Baun had another opportunity out in front but he couldn't finish when he went backhand-forehand on Poloshkov.
They needed Beskorowany at his sparkling best to keep it level at the second intermission, the netminder denying Vladislav Kolesnikov, Dmitri Potaichuk and Ivan Kiselyov in quick succession as the Kazakhs piled on the pressure.
With the two-goal lead to start the third, Arlan sat back and invited the Giants onto them, and their strong defensive system looked to be holding firm until the Giants raised the roof with a stunning two-goal swing.
The first came at 47:44 as Poloshkov made the initial save from Baun, but Chris Higgins was there to jam in the rebound, with Dustin Johner levelling it at 48:56 with a lovely finish down the left.
However, two quick penalties saw the Giants having to kill off a five-on-three with five minutes to go, but they produced a phenomenal defensive display to keep it tied even though they did survive Stanislav Borovikov ringing the iron.
That took it to overtime, which was particularly nervy for Belfast as they had to kill off a penalty to Higgins, but ultimately the extra five minutes couldn't separate the two sides, taking it to the shootout.
However it was to be heartbreak for the hosts as although Johner scored his penalty shot to cancel out Gasnikov's first to take it to sudden death, the Arlan forward found the net with his second as well to earn them the Continental Cup.
Man of the Match: #19 Yevgeni Gasnikov
Belfast Telegraph Digital