#2 Cardiff Devils 2-6 #8 Coventry Blaze
Forward Chris Bruton’s hat-trick earned him the man of the match award as the reigning playoff champions return to the final.
The eight seeds stunned the regular season runners-up as the West Midlands-based outfit were 4-0 up in the opening 20 minutes.
Brett Robinson, Cale Tanaka and Josh Godfrey were also on the scoresheet for the Blaze. And they will now matchup against the weakest squad they have had to play in this year’s competition.
Joey Haddad and Gleason Fournier added consolation. However, Cardiff ends a promising season empty-handed.
#4 Nottingham Panthers 4-1 #6 Fife Flyers
Corey Neilson’s side took control with two quick goals in the second period. David Clarke found the top corner then Logan MacMillan scored on a counter attack.
Fife’s top point scorer, Ryan Dingle had a spectacular goal that gave his Flyers some hope early in the last 20 minutes to be played.
However, Brad Moran restored a two-goal lead. Shortly after Evan Mosey ensured it would be the home team that would face Coventry in Sunday’s final at the National Ice Centre.
The Blaze had beat Cardiff Devils 6-2 in the first semi earlier on in the day.
Cardiff Devils 6-0 Fife Flyers
In the match no player wants to participate in, the Flyers were the less interested of the two sides.
Luke Piggott and Chris Jones hit doubles while Ryan Russell and Jake Morissette both netted singles.
The Welsh side, who led the Elite League for the majority of the season before losing it to Sheffield Steelers, were 3-0 up in the first period.
A couple more goals arrived in the second session, and Devils achieved their shutout with a sixth three minutes from time.
Nottingham Panthers 2-0 Coventry Blaze
It is a cup double for Corey Neilson’s side as they also lifted this year’s Challenge Cup at the National Ice Centre. They led at the end of the first period thanks to a strike by Stephen Schultz.
Blaze goaltender Brian Stewart made many saves that kept his team in the match going into the closing stages.
However, it would not last. Schultz turned provider and set up Kevin Quick to fire the second past Stewart and into the roof of the net.
Panthers keeper Miika Wiikman was able to secure a 30-shot shutout, having made many fine saves throughout the course of the match.
Although, Nottingham was worth their win. On their own patch, they could have won by a greater margin had it not been for the Coventry netminder.
The Canadian also saved on breakaways from Brad Moran and Evan Mosey before a great stop to deny Juraj Kolnik.
The focus now turns to the offseason and for the out of contract Panthers Head Coach Corey Neilson is looking to extend his stay. He said:
“There are a lot of great places out there, but this has always been special to me. If they want me back, of course, I will consider it. Hopefully, they recognise the things I’ve done.”
The Canadian was solely a player for two years with Nottingham. He then combined the role with coaching for the next five before switching his focus to the sideline full-time in 2013.
“I was privileged enough to wear the jersey for so long, now I get to be in charge of the biggest club in the Elite League. Over the 10 years, I feel we have had a great amount of success with championships and trophies that we are proud of.”
The Nottinghamshire based squad bounced back in 2016, having failed to win anything in the 2014/15 season. That campaign was the first time in seven years that they did not celebrate with silverware.
“It’s always a blast to be in your home rink and to be able to raise the trophy in front of all these great people that support us through thick and thin, high and low. Every game this year, these guys have given their hearts. They have not been great every single game, but they certainly gave everything they had. I could not be prouder.”
Fans and players alike will be hoping that Neilson stays on and will be coaching them to further success when the season starts in October.
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