Nottingham Panthers’ European adventure is over as they lose to Zurich Lions


Nottingham Panthers’ European adventure is over, but there was no shame whatsoever in the manner of their exit.

A packed, raucous Motorpoint Arena witnessed a performance of relentless spirit, but Zurich Lions had too much quality as they won 3-0 on the night, 6-1 on aggregate, to send Panthers out of the Champions Hockey League.

Trailing 3-1 from the first leg, Panthers needed to score first against one of the continent’s great teams. However, Frederik Pettersson – Zurich’s top scorer in the competition – got the opener in the second period.

Panthers kept going, killing a five minute penalty into the third period, but Roman Wick ended any doubt with 11 minutes left before Pettersson scored again during a two minute stretch of five on three.

Nonetheless, the volume levels never dropped as the home fans appreciated the obvious commitment levels of Corey Neilson’s team in the last 16 showdown.

Evan Mosey in the thick of the action

After the game both supporters and home players showed their appreciation for Neilson, who stayed with the team for the first leg just days after learning of the sudden death of his father Doug.

Panthers had Neilson back behind the bench after his father’s funeral in Canada, but Mark Derlago remains in the same country as his own dad battles serious illness.

The opening drop of the puck was greeted by a huge roar from the home fans before the Zurich supporters began chanting – and never stopped.

Panthers netminder Mike Garnett makes a save

It was goalless first period. Panthers chances were always going to be limited, with the two clearest openings falling to Brett Perlini.

It took 15 minutes for a clear home chance to come as Tim Billingsley did well to drive out from defence before firing the puck across for Perlini, who could not get a clean enough connection at the back post.

Billingsley picked up a penalty in the aftermath but Mike Garnett kept it goalless thanks to a brilliant double save with his outstretched leg from Fabrice Herzog.

Panthers’ Mathieu Gagnon is held back as a fight breaks out

With Panthers restored to full strength Perlini was unable to unleash the sharpest of wrist shots, but Lukas Flueler had razor sharp reactions to glove the effort.

Tempers flared at the buzzer as a Lions player refused to give Raphael Bussieres his stick back. Bussieres did not take kindly and Mathieu Gagnon responded by challenging anyone who would listen to a fight, but especially Chris Baltisberger, who was not interested.

The second period went a long way to ending the tie as a contest as Zurich got the crucial first goal before Panthers saw Dan Spang kicked out of the game.

Panthers boss Corey Neilson

Garnett was in inspired form as he denied Pius Suter with the defence out of the picture. There was nothing he could do though after 26.24 as Zurich got the goal.

Pettersson was released for a breakaway and he made no mistake by shooting home via the inside of the post.

Panthers tried to respond as Perlini found space, only for Flueler to get a stick on the puck as he tried to round him.

Nottingham Panthers fans

Spang’s night was over with 32 seconds left in the period when he was judged to have cross checked Chris Baltisberger in the face behind the play, leaving Panthers with a five minute penalty to try and kill.

Panthers did brilliantly to kill the remaining 4.29 of Spang’s penalty, but they only had 15 minutes to get back in it.

Wick, a first leg scorer, settled the tie after 49.10 with a shot through Garnett’s legs. Panthers fans immediately began chanting.

ZSC Lions celebrate taking the lead

The Zurich fans, by this point almost shirtless to a man, were bouncing. The home side were on the rough end of the calls as Bussieres picked up a double minor, seemingly for Zack Phillips being cross checked.

Then Chris Baltisberger showed he could have a career as Premier League footballer as he drew a penalty from Steve Lee, making it five on three for two minutes.

Pettersson took advantage with his second with 5.40 to play. It was tough on the magnificent home side.



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