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The Nottingham Panthers kept marching along the trophy trail with their third successive playoff final victory and completion of the Grand Slam of league, challenge cup, and playoffs to end what has been a defining year in the Panther’s history.

Again it was Belfast, who Panthers beat in Ireland in the penultimate weekend of the regular season to win the elusive league title, that were defeated, this time at the home of UK ice hockey in a fittingly exciting and tense finale.

With a scoreless first period of flowing ice hockey Nottingham seized the advantage in the second with a rather fortuitous goal that saw a Galivan shot deflected by the outstanding Lachowicz, looping up and over Murphy in the Giant’s goal before landing on top of the net, bouncing twice, dropping back over the crossbar and onto the back of Murphy and into the back of the net. 

You sensed that Panthers needed a break like that to beat Murphy who had only conceded one playoff goal in over 4 periods up to that point.  With opposite number Craig Kowalski doing a sterling job at the other end, Panthers made their second period pressure count as Jonathan Weaver fired home to send the Nottingham fans into rapturous delight right at the end of the second period.

You felt the next goal would be crucial in deciding the outcome of the match, Nottingham wanted the insurance goal and Belfast needed a way back into the game.  It was the Giants that finally beat Kowalski on the powerplay with a Sandrock blue line blast with less than 5 minutes of the third period gone.  It was followed quickly by an equaliser from Saurette which swung the momentum fully towards the Irish.

Panthers were then unable to capitalise on a four minute powerplay midway through the third period after Galivan was cut from a stray Keefe stick and it seemed the writing was on the wall for a 20 minute sudden death overtime period. 

Giants killed off a late penalty before Weaver was called for hooking handing the Giants nearly two minutes of powerplay at the start of the overtime period with space opening up at 4 on 3 hockey.  There were near misses at both ends as the clock ticked past 12 minutes when Captain Jordan Fox struck the winner for Nottingham on an overtime powerplay, jamming the puck home through a crowd close in to complete a hat-trick of trophies in Nottingham’s most successful season in history.

League leading scorer and ice hockey superstar David Ling treated the crowd to a replay of the waterskiing behind the Zamboni that he performed earlier in the season, during the on-ice celebrations before getting custard-pied by Gary Moran.  Corey Neilson and Rick Strachan’s coaching magic must now be put to good use in retaining these players for next season; David Ling being one of the first on the list.