By Paul Woloszyn
At the National Ice Centre, Nottingham
Nottingham Panthers reached the Elite League play-off final with a dramatic penalty shootout win against the Belfast Giants on home ice.
Corey Neilson scored the first penalty for Nottingham
Sean McAslan scored the decisive goal to hand the Panthers a 2-0 win after netminder Rastislav Rovnianck had saved Belfast's opening two attempts.
The game had ended 1-1 after 65 minutes with Mark Dutiaume scoring for Belfast before Rod Stevens' equaliser.
Nottingham will meet Cardiff Devils in Sunday's final.
The Panthers had edged a tight first period, twice seeing efforts strike the post.
After nine minutes, Stevens diverted a McAslan effort against the frame of the goal before McAslan was again denied four minutes later - both attempts coming on the powerplay.
We are full strength going into the final and will continue to play style we have been
The game suddenly burst into life early in the second period as Nottingham lost the puck in the neutral zone, allowing Dutiaume to race down the ice and hit a low shot past Rovnianck on 23.21.
Belfast's lead lasted less than two minutes, however, and the equaliser was another goal resulting from a lapse in concentration.
A misplaced pass gifted possession to Nottingham and, after Jeff Hutchins' shot was saved by Phillippe DeRouville, the netminder was helpless as Stevens forced in the rebound.
The third period saw Nottingham up the tempo and DeRouville had to be at his agile best to stop Matus Petricko's effort from point-blank range.
However, after surviving a five on three, Belfast could have snatched victory themselves but Todd Kelman's long range shot pinged off the inside of the post.
With nothing to separate the teams at the end of three periods the game went to overtime and the best chance of an edgy extra five minutes fell to Nottingham - DeRouville again at the top of his game to keep out Stevens.
The former Pittsburgh Penguins man could not prevent a Belfast defeat as the game went to penalty shots, however.
Corey Neilson and McAslan were the only men to score with McAslan shooting high to seal Nottingham's third final appearance in four seasons.
With defeats in their last two, they will be hoping it is a case of third time lucky.
A delighted Panthers coach, Mike Ellis, said: "I knew before the game there would only be one goal in it.
"We are both offensive sides and were just going at it - both defences played so well to keep scoring down.
"The guys are mentally pumped up. They are going to be tired but there is just one more game to go.
"We are full strength going into the final and will continue to play style we have been.
"We luckily came through with the big finish tonight and we'll be pushing through with the key on defence once again tomorrow."