The Belfast Giants season ended on Sunday night in Nottingham as the Panthers won 5-3 to advance to the PredictorBet Playoff Finals weekend.
With the game tied at 7-7 on aggregate, the hosts scored the crucial winning goal in overtime with 26 seconds remaining.
In spite of the disappointment of missing out on the Final Four weekend, the Giants season will be defined by the Challenge Cup victory.
Last night, The Giants, leading 4-3 from Friday’s first Leg, struck first through Jonathan Ferland.
Nineteen seconds later it was 2-0. Kevin Raine who, for the first time this season, fired home assisted by Blair Riley and David Rutherford at 3:20.
Jackson Whistle and the Giants showed great team defence throughout the opening period, especially at the halfway point when they impressively killed off a five-on-three Panthers powerplay.
Mark Derlago got the Panthers on the scoreboard early in the middle period.
The Panthers were level on the night when Evan Mosey pounced.
Early into the final period Brett Perlini gave the Panthers the lead on the night and tied things up on aggregate.
Perlini’s goal came on a delayed penalty 89 seconds into the final period, assisted by David Clarke.
Yann Sauve gave the Panthers a lead on aggregate at 55:16 with a powerplay strike, assisted by Jeff Brown and David Clarke.
Jim Vandermeer’s strike sent the game into overtime when his shot from the blueline flew into the Nottingham net at 55:46, assisted by Colin Shields and Sebastien Sylvestre.
The overtime period was end-to-end and, just when it looked like the game would be decided on penalty shots, the Panthers struck.
Dan Spang scored the crucial goal, on a delayed penalty, assisted by Brett Perlini with 26 seconds remanining.
The Panthers advance to the PredictorBet Final Four Weekend in Nottingham and will face the Sheffield Steelers in Saturday’s second Semi-Final at 5pm. The Cardiff Devils will take on the Fife Flyers in the opening Semi-Final at 1pm.