Nottingham Panthers overcame three tough tests to book their place in the Continental Cup final group in January – the fourth year in a row a British club has achieved this.
It was a worthwhile trip as Panthers picked up wins over Gothiques d’Amiens and hosts SønderjyskE t book their place in the final four, which takes place in January.
For coach Tim Wallace, finishing top of the group was a great achievement for a team who were on a good run of form going into the tournament.
“What a day that was,” he said post game on Sunday. “It was pretty stressful to see what was going to happe, but there’s nothing better than having it in our hands and the chance to win the group.
“The guys really bought in and it was a great team win. It was great hockey and the guys stepped up, played our game and if we do that, we’re a really dangerous team.
“Your heart rate goeas a little more when a team pulls you back from 4-0 to 4-2, but it was making sure we stayed focussed and doing the right thing and we did what it took to win.
HIGHLIGHTS: Gothiques d’Amiens 2 Nottingham Panthers 4
“It’s a good feeling to be in the final group and it was the heck of a week. We had a rough one on Saturday, but the guys are a resilient group and we stepped up.”
Panthers will face SønderjyskE again in an as yet to be determined venue along with Neman Grodno of Belarus and Polish side Cracovia Krakow for the trophy in January.
Getting there was something of a joy for the travelling fans, who went to the Frøs Arena hoping to see a repeat of the 2017 team who went on to win the competition.
Amiens were first up and it was a game that set the tone as Nottingham took a 4-2 win to start the weekend off in the best possible fashion.
Two goals in the fifth minute – one for each side – gave the game an early edge as Jake Hansen’s opener was cancelled out by Florian Sabatier.
HIGHLIGHTS: Nottingham Panthers 2 Ferencvaros 3
Hansen added a second, followed by one from William Quist with Samuel Herr adding a fourth to give Nottingham a good lead early in the third.
Tommy Giroux’s consolation closed the gap to two, but Wallace’s side had got the start they wanted with victory to set them on their way.
Panthers looked to make it two from two when they faced Hungarian side Ferencvarosi in the second game on Saturday, but couldn’t conjure up the same outcome as they went down 3-2.
Jackson Whistle started in the net and was beaten five minutes in as Gergo Nagy opened the scoring, but Nottingham were back on level terms minutes later through Brett Perlini.
Ferencvarosi scored two in the second period within a 63 second period to open up a gap as Dezso Roczanov and Nagy, with his second, put them in a good position.
Whistle was pulled as Panthers looked to get something for their efforts and it paid off as Herr got his second goal in two games, but it wasn’t enough as the Hungarians claimed the result.
HIGHLIGHTS: SønderjyskE 2 Nottingham Panthers 4
SønderjyskE’s win over Amiens meant they topped the group going into the final game and Panthers knew what they had to do – beat the hosts and confirm their spot in the next round.
And they did so in style, registering a 4-2 win over the Danish side, leading 4-0 before SønderjyskE started to find a way, but came up short.
Former Panthers goalie Patrick Galbraith started the game against his old team, but was beaten early by Brett Perlini.
Julian Talbot added a second in the middle session, followed by Adam Deutsch as Nottingham saw the finish line in the horizon.
A fourth goal, from Jason DeSantis ended the night for Galbraith, who was replaced by Nicolaj Henriksen for the remainder of the game.
SønderjyskE got two on the board through Philip Lane and Mads Lund, but it was Tim Wallace and his men celebrating by the end as Panthers confirmed their route into the final group, with the jubilant fans leaving with another great experience of a European adventure with their team.