Panthers v Flames
The Nottingham Panthers
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The Nottingham Panthers entered Thursday night’s Challenge Cup Semi-Final against the Guildford Flames needing to overturn a three-goal deficit in order to make the grand final, held at Cardiff’s Viola Arena on Sunday March 10th.
Michael Garnett got the start in goal for the Panthers opposite Chris Carrozzi for the Flames.
Nottingham pressed early, Brett Perlini dancing through the defence before seeing his shot saved, with Guildford waiting to pounce on the counter attack. Garnett making a solid save at his far post after the away side broke in two-on-one.
The Panthers netminder was called into action again in short order, gloving down Kruise Reddick’s shot from the top of the right face-off circle.
It was then the turn of the Flames’ netminder to take centre stage, saving from Mark Hurtubise, through a screen, then Ollie Betteridge, all alone in the slot, to keep the Surrey based sides’ three goal aggregate lead intact.
Some heavy Panthers pressure didn’t’ result in a goal, Tim Billingsley seeing his shot deflected out of play, they wore the Flames down and ended the period the fresher of the two teams.
Alex Guptill almost gave the Panthers the perfect start to the second period as he broke in down the right wing but he found Carrozzi in top form, the Flames’ netminder was once again on hand to frustrate the EIHL’s leading goalscorer as he stone walled Guptill at the top of the crease as the forward powered towards goal.
Carrozzi stood firm to deny Jon Rheault as he tried to stuff the puck home on the doorstep before Garnett was called into the action, the Panthers’ netminder standing tall to deny the Flames from the slot after a slick passing move.
Guildford got the breakthrough when Kevin King (28.32) beat Garnett high on the glove side on an odd-man-rush. Things then got better for the away side as Ian Watters (33.05) beat Garnett in close to give the Panthers a mountain to climb in order to get back into the tie.
They began to climb that mountain when Justin Kovacs (35.56) diverted the puck past Carrozzi to half the deficit on the night, leaving the Panthers needing four goals in the third period to send the game to overtime.
Mark Hurtubise crashed the net early in the third period but once again Chris Carrozzi was on hand to keep the Panthers at bay, the Flames netminder then flashing the leather to deny Robert Farmer’s blast from the point.
Alex Guptill flashed the puck just wide of goal, and just out of reach of Ollie Betteridge, before the Panthers pressured the Flames into an icing as they endeavoured to get back into the tie.
With the game winding down Mark Hurtubise (55.42) was sent to the penalty box for a high stick and the Flames could were on the verge of advancing to the Challenge Cup final.
Nottingham killed the penalty to Hurtubise but when Pither was called for a high stick (58.52) the Flames poured salt into the Panthers wounds by scoring on the powerplay and booked themselves a date with the Belfast Giants on Sunday March 10th.