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Panthers get the needed win, but fall short

Photo: Panthers Images

Nottingham Panthers got the win they needed on the final day of the season to keep their outside hopes of making the playoffs alive.

The Panthers were always facing an uphill task, needing to win themselves and relying on a multicellular of other results to go their way.

They got off to the worst possible start. Manchester looked dangerous from the off and took just 75 seconds for Tyler Hinam to feed Sam Tremblay in front with the low finish past Rok Stojanovič. The Panthers’ equaliser was a woeful goal for the occasion, though, with Didrik Henbrandt skating form his own zone to finish at the other end with just over 13 minutes played. The game stayed tied into the break.

Miles McGurty rang a shot off the crossbar as the Panthers started period two the stronger, creating sustained pressure in Storm’s end. Alex Oldale survived some 30 seconds without a stick on a Panthers powerplay, making a neat pad save as the hosts controlled position in front of him, as the pressure grew. Storm gradually got a foothold as the period drew on, and after Tyler Hiram hit the crossbar, Raymond Brice's deflection fooled Stojanovič and put Storm ahead at 32:42. It would have been unfair on the Panthers to go in behind at the break, but a rush saw Mathieu Lemay’s shot deflect past Oldale off a Storm stick to tie the game at 37:17. Joe Hazeldine hit the crossbar and Ollie Better shot over from close range as the period ticked down.

To the Panthers’ credit, they threw everything they had at the Storm in the third period - and to Storm’s, they held out reliantly with sticks in lanes, blocked shots, and an inspired Older there when they needed. With 7:08 to play, a fortuitous bounce put the puck on Jordan Kelsall’s stick in the slot but an excellent glove save from Oldale denied the hosts the go-ahead goal.

Manchester were a threat on the rush and almost stole the win in the final minute, but both teams deserved the point they took with the scored level after 60 minutes.

Nottingham had no option but to win in overtime to keep themselves in with a shout of the playoffs, and the roof almost came off the Motorpoint Arena 76 seconds into the bonus period. Alexander Lunsjo’s shot took at least two deflections on its way past Oldale to the delight of the majority of the 6,432-strong crowd to get the Panthers the win they needed.

After everything the Panthers team went through during the 2023/24, that they ended it by doing everything in their control to make the playoffs in their last game of the season is an enormous credit to the players and coaching staff.

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