Belfast Giants made to pay by Panthers
Nottingham Panthers 3 Belfast Giants 1: A failure to take their chances has left the Belfast Giants with a big task on their hands if they are to lift the Challenge Cup, for the second time in three seasons.
A shot count of 36 delivered just one goal against the Nottingham Panthers last night and with the home side scoring three times it is they who will come to the Odyssey Arena next Wednesday night confident that they can make the trophy theirs.
The Giants powerplay unit, which has steadily improved over the last couple of months to become one of the most productive outfits in the league, fell flat last night.
Seven times the Giants had a numerical advantage on the ice — including a full minute of a five-on-three powerplay during the second period — yet their only goal game with just over two minutes gone and while both teams were at full strength.
Mark Garside sent the puck across the ice from a wide position, Colin Hemingway managed to get his stick to it and divert it through the legs of Nottingham goaltender Craig Kowalski.
Nottingham knew they needed to up the ante and that they did as they enjoyed a period of pressure in the Giants zone.
Three-and-a-half minutes after going behind, the Panthers struck level.
Matthew Myers pounced as the defence lost concentration for just a second and although Stephen Murphy stopped his shot David Clarke was on hand to force the puck across the line.
Myers then put the Panthers in front in the 11th minute.
Jade Galbraith pull the puck out from behind the net, Myers would up the shot and subsequently fired past Murphy’s shoulder and into the net.
Both teams fluffed good chances, rung the pipes and the Giants even claimed they had scored midway through the game, but referee Andy Carson was having none of it.
A minute into the third period, Nottingham gave themselves a decent lead to defend when they come to Belfast for the second leg, next week.
Galbraith was the scorer, with Myers involved again and he beat Murphy at the second attempt.
The Giants are in action again tonight when they will aim to go to the top of the Elite League table with an away victory over the current leaders, the Sheffield Steelers.