IIHF Continental Cup Day 3: Giants beaten but final awaits

(PHOTO: William Cherry/Press Eye)

Belfast Giants are in the final group of the IIHF Continental Cup despite suffering a 4-2 loss to Polish side GKS Katowice in their climatic third stage game.

After picking up full points in their previous two games, they weren’t able to finish with the 100% record they wanted as Katowice joined them in the final – for which it will be interesting to see who the bookmakers have as favourites.

It started so well for the home side, who were two up before last season’s Polish runners-up clawed their way back to take victory in the end.

Josh Roach got the opening goal with a deadly wrist shot after almost ten minutes to put them ahead, with Dustin Johner getting an apple.

They added to it just after the restart when good combination work from David Rutherford and Blair Riley teed up Darcy Murphy for the finish.

Katowice got one on the board around the halfway point as Mikolaj Lopuski edged the puck under Tyler Beskorowany in the Giants’ net to halve the deficit.

The equaliser came within a minute later for Tom Coolen’s side as Jesse Rohtla swept in at back post and it was all square after two periods.

Katowice sensed they were on to something and finally took the lead in the 45th minute as Niko Tukhanen bundled the puck in as their hopes of qualification rose.

Then, with a minute to go, they made sure of the points as Janne Laakkonen finished the job with an empty net, securing Katowice’s place in the final along with the Giants.

Earlier in the day, Medvescak Zagreb finished their campaign on a high note with a 3-1 success over Ritten Sport.

Despite ending with the same points as Belfast and Katowice, they were squeezed out, finishing their campaign on a bittersweet note.

Antonin Manavian put Zagreb ahead after five minutes and it didn’t take them until the third period to add to that when Yann Savué and Bruno Ficur put them 3-0 ahead.

Tobias Brighenti’s consolation for Ritten late on changed nothing in terms of the outcome of the game.

Belfast will have to wait until the completion of the other semi final group in Lyon tomorrow before they’ll know who’ll await them in the final in January, with the venue to be set once all four teams are confirmed.