Belfast Giants, Fife Flyers and Sheffield Steelers secured the last places in this weekend’s Elite League Playoff Finals, joining Braehead Clan in the final four.
Having given up a four goal lead in the first leg, Fife went into the second leg with a one goal up. After a goalless opening session the Flyers silenced the home support as they scored three without reply in the second period to restore their four goal advantage. This turned out to be enough to see off the Stars and for the Flyers to book their play-off semi-final spot.
With only a goal between the teams the opening period was a tense affair, both team created chances but neither could convert them into goals and the period ended goalless.
However, all that was to change in the second period as the visitors scored three without reply to take control of the game. The opener came at 24.40 with a powerplay goal from Jordan Fulton and then Tim Hartung double Flyers advantage as he netted at 30.01. When Jamie Wilson scored a third at 37.05 to make it 3-0 it was looking good for the Kirkcaldy based team.
The game and the tie was over as a contest at 44.41 as Matt Reber added a fourth for the Flyers. The Stars got a late consolation goal from Lubomir Vaskovic at 54.42 to deny Kevin Regan his shut out.
Belfast went into the 2nd leg with a three goal lead but just before the midway point Hull reduced the deficit with two shorthanded goals. However, that was as close as the Stingrays were to get in the quarter final tie as the Giants scored three without reply to book their play –off semi-final spot.
The home side maintained their three goal lead from the first leg after the opening period ended goalless. However, all that was to change in the second period as the Stingrays got right back into the tie. Two shorthanded goals a minute apart from the visitors reduced the aggregate score to a single goal. Both were scored by Carl Lauzon with the first coming at 28.49 and the second at 29.53. The Giants eased the tension in the Arena as Colin Shields scored at 38.14.
At 48.12 the Giants finally got their powerplay unit working as Kevein Saurette fired home to level the score on the night. When Darryl Lloyd netted the game winning goal for the hosts at 54.32 there was no way back for the visitors and the Giants won the game by the odd goal in five.
Steelers eased into a Play-Offs semi-final date with Braehead Clan after convincingly seeing off the challenge of Blaze with doubles from Dustin Kohn and Robert Dowd leading the way.
Blaze repelled the expected fast start by the home side but fell behind at 8.24 when Kohn scored his first of the night, firing past Mike Zacharias. Both teams were giving little away after that and that single strike turned out to be the only counter of the session.
The score line remained that way until Steelers took a firm grasp of the tie in the latter stages of period two. Dowd made it 2-0 at 30.51 and with the Blaze heads going down there were further goals from Dowd again at 34.25 on the powerplay and Max Lacroix at 35.16 to leave Steelers out of sight – five clear in the tie at the end of period buzzer.
The intensity was noticeably lowered in the third session with Blaze getting a consolation from Ross Venus at 41.52 but it was Steelers night and they finished off the scoring with a couple of late counters, with Kohn at 54.09 on the powerplay and Danny Meyers with a rare strike at 57.13 putting the icing on the cake for Gerad Adams’ side.
PLAYOFF FINAL FIXTURES
Saturday 5th April
Playoffs Semi Finals @ NIC Nottingham
Belfast Giants v Fife Flyers – 1.00pm
Sheffield Steelers v Braehead Clan – 5.00pm
Sunday 6th April
3rd/4th Place Match – 12.00pm
Playoff Final – 4.00pm