Devils v Panthers
3 - 2
The Nottingham Panthers
The Nottingham Panthers travelled to Cardiff Bay on Saturday night to take on the Devils in Elite League action.
Michael Garnett got the start in goal for Nottingham opposite Ben Bowns for Cardiff.
A Panthers powerplay inside the first minute (0.08) was nullified when Alex Bolduc was called for slashing (0.52) in his bid to deny Joey Martin a shorthanded breakaway opportunity.
With the teams skating four-on-four Alex Guptill, Steve Lee and Robert Farmer combined but the two GB stars couldn't find a way past their compatiot Bowns and the game remained scoreless. When the Devils returned to full strength and went on a truncated 40 second powerplay Michael Garnett had to be alert to deny Gleason Fournier's one timer, the Panthers' netminder flying out to the top of his crease to narrow the angle and smother the puck just as Alex Bolduc returned to the ice.
Bolduc found himself in the crosshairs of the officials once more after a coming together with Matthew Myers, the Panthers' man called for holding (3.11) as both players tumbled to the ice. First Hedden then Fournier tested Garnett with one-timers on the reuslting powerplay but the netminder was once again on top of his game with both his blocker and his glove to keep the Devils at bay.
Once the Panthers returned to full strength it didn't take them long to take the lead. Alex Guptill stripped former Panther Evan Mosey of the puck, played a little give and go with Marek Tvrdon then fed Dylan Olsen at the blueline who ripped a one-timer past Bowns (5.42) to give the Panthers the lead.
However, it took less than a minute for the Devils to tie the game. Sam Duggan scoring his first professional goal as he deflected the puck past a wrong-footed Michael Garnett (6.28) to make it 1-1.
A breathless few minutes of play followed the Devils' equalizer as hits and shots flew in from both sides before Captain Gui Lepine dropped the gloves with Justin Faryna after the Devils' man was penalised for a late hit on Lepine in the corner. On the resulting Panthers' powerplay (10.52) Bowns was at his acrobatic best to stack the pads and deny Guptill who appeared to have a half empty cage to shoot into.
The Devils went to a powerplay of their own (15.55) and more acrobatics were on show in the goal crease but this time not from a netminder. With Michael Garnett caught out of position Steve Lee made a sprawling save to deny the Devils and keep the game tied at one a piece.
Robert was called for delay of game (18.45) as the period wound down and the Devils took advantage. With 13 seconds remaning in the period Mosey fed Haddad who hit a one timer into the Nottingham net to give Cardiff a one goal lead heading into the second period.
The first half of the second period was a more sedate affair between the two sides but when Joey Martin went to the box for hooking (29.36) the game exploded back into life. First Bowns denied Hurtubise on the one-timer before Perlini and Haddad exchancged penalties in quick sucession. When Perlini returned to the ice the Panthers struck on their truncated powerplay.
Dylan Olsen received the puck at the blueline and as the sea of red shirts parted in front of him he walked into a slapshot that went high over the glove of Ben Bowns to tie the game at two (33.02).
Bowns was in the thick of things as the second period wound down, denying Billinglsey as he jumped up into the play then robbing Brett Perlini at point-blank range at the top of the crease. Marek Tvrdon then almost marked his debut with a goal but saw his effort ring off the crossbar and out of play and the teams remained deadlocked after 40 minutes.
The Panthers had to kill an early third period five-on-three powerplay for the Devils but Michael Garnett and the penalty killers stood tall and the Devils couldn't find a clear route to goal as Nottingham returned to full strength unscathed.
With both sides skating at full strength you could cut the atmosphere in Cardiff Bay with a knife, neither side wanting to make a costly mistake. As the game tightened up Tvrdon fashioned himself a shooting opportunity but the puck was met by the shoulder of Bowns and cleared out of the zone.
Luke Pither held the puck on the right wing and found a streaking Brett Perlini but he was once again stone-walled by his Team GB teammate in the Devils' goal.
Cardiff hit the bar inside the final five minutes before a pair of iceings, one for either team, led to some late tension and drama but there was to be no breakthrough and the game went to overtime.
Luke Pither had the Panthers best chance when he was found all alone at the backdoor but Ben Bowns made a miraculous stop to ensure the game continued. When play broke up the other end Michael Garnett sprawled out and denied Joey Martin in the most larcenous of manors.
Off the next face-off the EIHL's reigning league MVP would not be denied, skating out of the corner he just beat the outstretched stick of a Panther before depositing the puck over the shoulder of Garnett to give the Devils the extra point.
Photo credit: Andy Burnham