Panthers v Storm
The Nottingham Panthers
3 - 0
The Motorpoint Arena played host to Challenge Cup action on Friday night as The Nottingham Panthers went in search of the win they needed to top their group and be in with a chance of selecting who and when they play in the quarter finals.
Michael Garnett got the start in goal for the Panthers, who were without Jon Rheault, Joseph Hazeldine & Alex Guptill but welcomed Alex Bolduc to the line-up for his home debut, opposite Jindrach 'Henry' Pacl for the Storm.
Nottingham came out of the blocks hot, Jacob Doty firing just wide before former Panther Pacl held on to a Steve Lee slapshot from the right point.
Pacl was once again in the thick of the action when he robbed Brett Perlini at the top of the crease, the Storm netminder going post-to-post to deny the GB forward.
With Alex Bolduc in the penalty box (4.27) Michael Garnett was called into action at his left post, slamming the door shut with his pad not once but twice to deny Dane Byers.
A spell of pressure in the offensive zone saw Gui Lepine have time and space to line up his slapshot from the point, the Panthers captain beat Pacl but not the iron and the game remained tied at zero.
The first powerplay for the Panthers came when Tim Billingsley was hooked (15.11) as he marauded into the Storm zone but they couldn't find a way past Pacl. Another penalty to the Storm (17.19) swiftly followed but they once again killed it, keeping the Panthers to the outside as the first period ended scoreless.
Nottingham built momentum after killing a penalty to Luke Pither (23.35) and Tyler VanKleef deflected home Jaynen Rissling's shot (26.59) to give The Nottingham Panthers the lead with his first goal for the club.
The Panthers once again built momentum from a penalty kill, this time to Jaynen Rissling (27.36), as beautiful link up play between Biggs, Hurtubise and Bolduc saw the man making his home debut fire just wide.
Shane Bakker had a partial breakway but as he tried to round Michael Garnett the Panthers' netminder extended his right leg to deny the Storm forward.
In search of a second goal Ollie Betteridge hit the post as he shot across Pacl before Kevin Henderson's attempted wraparound was turned aside before Justin Kovacs found a way past Pacl with a moment of individual brilliance (38.18). The tricky forward received the puck from Luke Pither on the right wing, slid it through his legs whilst rounding his defenceman and beat Pacl up over his shoulder in tight with a wicked wrist shot.
After Gui Lepine backtracked brilliantly to deny Hammond a shot on the breakaway the hooter sounded and the Panthers went into the third with a two goal lead.
Looking to get back into the game early in the third Manchester pressed hard but found Michael Garnett in imperious form, the Panthers netminder standing tall to reject Byers' bid at the backdoor.
A huge hit by Gui Lepine saw the Panthers close out a penalty to Kevin Henderson (42.01) before Long hit the post as Manchester advanced into the Panthers' zone.
Jacob Doty threw a shot on goal that was too hot to handle for Pacl and as he lost the puck in his feet Robert Farmer was on hand to sweep it home (51.35) to give the Panthers a 3-0 lead.
The Nottingham Panthers kept a tiring, but still game, Manchester Storm side away from Michael Garnett's cage for the remainder of the period as he recorded his second shutout of the season to send the Panthers to the top of their Challenge Cup group.