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Page last updated at 22:22 GMT, Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Panthers win Challenge Cup with 4-3 triumph over Giants

Panthers win Challenge Cup
Panthers have won the Challenge Cup four times in its 14-year history

Nottingham Panthers won their third Challenge Cup in four seasons as they clinched a 4-3 aggregate success over the Belfast Giants.

First-period goals from Colin Hemingway and Michael Jacobsen levelled the decider as Belfast took a 2-0 second-leg lead at the Odyssey Arena.

However, Jade Galbraith's second-period strike put the Panthers ahead again and they held on in the final period.

Nottingham's victory ends Belfast's hopes of achieving a treble.

"It is great feeling to win the cup again and I am proud of every one of my players," said Panthers player coach Corey Neilson. "It has been a tough year and so much has gone on but this has made it worth it.

"We have been backed by a loyal bunch of supporters who made the trip over and I am so pleased for them."

Belfast took the lead on the powerplay with Neilson in the box for interference. Former Panthers forward Dan Welch fed Colin Hemingway to fire through the five-hole.

With both sides a man short the home side scored their second, with Jacobsen finding room in the offensive zone and skating unchallenged to fire past Craig Kowalski.

As the period drew to a close Danny Meyers had to be at his defensive best, sprawling on the floor to stop a Giants two-on-one break.

Nottingham had the better of the second period and David Clarke hit the crossbar inside the first 44 seconds, before Clarke and Matthew Myers set up Galbraith, who reacted first to a loose puck following a fumble by Stephen Murphy.

In the third session, Kowalski pulled off two point-blank saves at one end, while David-Alexandre Beauregard and Rob Bellamy were denied on breakaways.

Belfast lifted Murphy for the extra skater and called a time-out but Panthers held on to win the Challenge Cup for the third time in four years.

Belfast are still in Elite League title contention as they are a point behind leaders Sheffield and second-placed Cardiff with two sets of games remaining.

After the completion of the Elite League, the play-off title will also be up for grabs.

Between them, Nottingham and Belfast have won the Challenge Cup for the last four seasons.

Panthers, who also won in 2004, beat Sheffield Steelers in the 2008 final, while Belfast defeated Manchester Phoenix in 2009.

Last season, Panthers beat Cardiff Devils 8-7 on aggregate following a thrilling second leg at the National Ice Centre.

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