GKS Katowice 5 HK Gomel 0
Arlan Kokshetau 3 Belfast Giants 2 (PS)
Belfast Giants’ hopes of lifting the Continental Cup were ended in heartbreaking fashion as Arlan Kokshetau took victory in a nerve-ending penalty shootout.
It was quite a night as Giants looked to become the second British side in three years to win the European competition and produced the sort of performance worthy of the title.
The Kazakh side took the lead after 11 minutes when Sergei Yegorov deflected Alexander Nesterov’s shot from the blueline to beat home goalie Tyler Beskorowany.
Arlan added a second towards the end of the first to make Belfast’s job that little more difficult when Vadim Yermolayev squeezed his effort into the Giants goal.
With the lead to protect, Arlan were tough to break through, but it wasn’t for the want of trying by Belfast, who weren’t even close to giving up on their dream.
Still two down, Giants went into the third period determined to pull it back and with a huge crowd in attendance, they weren’t going to let them down.
And they didn’t.
Kyle Baun’s effort was spilled, allowing Chris Higgins to pounce and show they weren’t out of this contest yet.
Then just over a minute later, the equaliser came when Dustin Johner scored to lift the roof of the SSE Arena and the Giants fans saw their dreams come back into view.
Suddenly fingernails got shorter and shorter as the minutes ticked down, with no headway being made in the scoring.
Belfast impressively killed off a late five-on-three Arlan powerplay to drag the final into overtime and had to do more killing in overtime, but the defence and Beskorwany stood firm.
The game went to a shootout and although Dustin Johner’s equaliser after Yevgeni Gasnikov’s strike, the Kazakhstan side took victory when Gasnikov netted in sudden death.
The journey had ended for Belfast, but not in the ideal way. However they fought tooth and nail and done themselves proud on a memorable night in Northern Ireland.
EARLIER IN THE DAY
GKS Katowice ended their weekend in Northern Ireland on a positive note as HK Gomel were shut out for a second game of their three, beaten 5-0.
Mikolaj Lopuski scored a hat-trick in the first 21 minutes to put the Poles into a commanding lead, the latter two of which were on the powerplay.
Marek Strzyzowski added a fourth shortly after as Katowice’s lead became more commanding while Jesse Jyrkkio made it five in the last couple of minutes to send the Poles home with a bronze medal.