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Last Updated: Sunday, 8 April 2007, 17:16 GMT 18:16 UK
Panthers win after penalty drama
By Paul Woloszyn
At the National Ice Centre, Nottingham

Nottingham goalscorer David Clarke celebrates (Image: Diane Davey)
Clarke scored Nottingham's goal in the first minute
Rastislav Rovnianek was the hero as Nottingham Panthers won their first play-off title since 1989 by beating Cardiff Devils on penalties.

The netminder saved all three Devils attempts to secure a 1-0 win after the game had ended 1-1 after overtime.

Panthers had led as early as the first minute through David Clarke before Tyson Teplitsky equalised on 42.02.

It was the second time Nottingham had won on penalties in two days, following a semi-final win over Belfast Giants.

Nottingham, who had lost in their previous six play-off final appearances, got the perfect start when they took the lead with just 1.10 on the clock - Clarke squeezing the puck in from a seemingly impossible angle on the powerplay.

Cardiff rallied and dominated the first period in spells, out-shooting their opponents by 10 shots to seven, but might have found themselves further behind but for two miraculous saves by Phil Osaer from Great Britain international Clarke.

Penalties are the best way to win but the toughest to lose

Nottingham coach Mike Ellis

The second session was an even affair with both teams seeing chances come and go as defences emerged on top.

A repeat of the 1999 final - Cardiff's last play-off success - the best chance saw Devils' Mark Smith fire just wide from a central position in front of goal.

Cardiff levelled just 2.04 into the third period when Mark Richardson fed Teplitsky from the left for the defenceman to hammer an unstoppable first-time shot beyond Ravnianek.

The goal seemed to increase their urgency and Max Birbraer tipped just wide before Nottingham nearly snatched a dramatic late winner when Osaer diverted a Sean McAslan shot wide of the goal with his legs.

Nothing could separate the teams however and after five minutes of overtime it went to penalties.

Trevor Gallant showed patience before sending Osaer the wrong way to score the opening shot for Nottingham.

It would be the only successful attempt with Rovnianek saving the decisive third effort from Cardiff's Mark Smith to secure only Panthers' second play-off crown and their first since the formation of the Elite League.

You can talk about being tired but I don't think fatigue was a factor for either team

Cardiff coach Gerad Adams

Nottingham coach Mike Ellis, who has just completed his first season with the midlands outfit, said: "Penalties are the best way to win but the toughest to lose, but it was pretty heart-wrenching stuff for me on the bench.

"The last thing we wanted was for the game to go to overtime but we took care of our defensive responsibilites and did well to keep them out - they had so many chances in the third and our penalty killing tonight was great.

"Hopefully this is a big sign of things to come for Nottingham. The guys played so well, up and down the ice at both ends, and I'm thrilled for them.

His opposite number, Gerad Adams, said: "The beautiful and horrible thing about the play-offs is that you get one wrong bounce and you're out - it sure does suck to lose a shoot-out.

"I feel that we dominated and should have had a better result. You can talk about being tired but I don't think fatigue was a factor for either team."

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