NOTTINGHAM, Great Britain – The Nottingham Panthers completed the most successful season in the club’s history by also winning the Play-Off title, thus capturing all three major British ice hockey competitions in 2012-2013. Quite a feat considering that the Panthers were founded in 1946.
Although British ice hockey throughout the years has taken most influences from their old dominion Canada (for all the obvious reasons), the way it determines its champions has been mostly inspired by British football, where there are many championships/cups at stake each season.
But for the first time in Nottingham’s ice hockey history, the Panthers swept them all. So the club can put the following titles on their commemorative 2012-2013 pennant: Elite Ice Hockey League Champions, Elite Ice Hockey League Playoff Champions and Challenge Cup Champions.
For the Panthers it was the third consecutive play-off championship and the fourth straight Challenge Cup championship.
After winning the 52-game, 10-team EIHL regular season (which actually officially determines the national champion) on 85 points, six points ahead of the Belfast Giants, it was only natural that those two teams would also meet in the Playoff Final.
In the Final-Four playoff, host Nottingham defeated Cardiff Devils 6-3, while Belfast disposed of Coventry Blaze 5-1 to set up the expected final.
Before 6719 fans at the National Ice Center, Panthers looked in control, leading 2-0 after two periods but a forceful Belfast comeback saw the Giants draw level and take the game into overtime.
And it was a very unfortunate Irish too-many-men penalty at 6.09 of OT that led to the sudden-death victory. The Giants had only seven seconds left to kill of the 4-against-3 play when Nottingham captain Jordan Fox stabbed the puck past Giants’ goalie Stephen Murphy for the game and playoff winner.
“I didn't see the puck go in,” said match-winner Fox to the Nottingham Post. “But when I looked up and saw David Clarke behind the net stand up and celebrate I think I blacked out there for a second. It's not a bad first year as a captain is it! There is nothing else I can win now.”
Assistant captain David Clarke on the overtime winner:
“Eric Werner shot it wide on purpose and it came back off the boards, Daymen Rycroft tripped me over, I lost my stick and looked up and there was the puck in the back of the net. I didn't know where I was, I just jumped all over Foxy. What a perfect way to end the season, unbelievable.”
Jonathan Weaver had the second goal for Nottingham 28 seconds before the end of the second period, but he was also the one who took a penalty late in the third, giving Belfast a one-man advantage going into the overtime:
“We were in control at 2-0 then they came back to level it up and then I took that penalty in the last minute which was unforgivable. I don't know what I'd have felt like if they'd scored but the penalty-kill has been fantastic all season and we got that big goal at the end.”
Robert Lachowicz had the Panthers’ first goal, while Robby Sandrock (PP) and Kevin Saurette scored for the Giants.
Despite their long history, 2013 marked only the second time that the Nottingham Panthers could call themselves national champion. First time was in 1956.