Champions! The Nottingham Panthers pose for a team photo after becoming the first British team to win the IIHF Continental Cup. Photo: Max Pattis
First British team to win Continental Cup
The Nottingham Panthers also won their third game of the final tournament, 4-1 vs. Ritten, and became the first British team to win the IIHF Continental Cup.
The British were more efficient and physically stronger than their opponents and decided the game with three power-play goals. Ritten tried hard to find back into the game and outshot Nottingham 37-28 but didn’t manage to beat goaltender Miika Wiikman with a player-of-the-match performance more than once.
“We played good all weekend. My guys made the job really easy for me. It’s nice to be part of a team that makes history,” the Swedish-Finnish netminder said.
Already after four minutes of play the Nottingham Panthers opened the scoring. With Ritten’s Ivan Tauferer in the penalty box after shooting the puck out of the ice, Matt Carter succeeded from the left side to give the Panthers an ideal start into the game.
Ritten tried to come back but didn’t capitalize on its chances and like yesterday made life difficult with penalties. That gave the Panthers the opportunity to play with a man advantage for almost four minutes at the end of the first and the beginning of the second period. 24 seconds after the start of the middle frame Chris Lawrence scored to make it a 2-0 lead for the British team.
“The power play was good and the goaltending was excellent on our side. We controlled the neutral zone pretty well. It’s an accomplishment for our team being able to be the first British team to win it,” said Nottingham Panthers head coach and former national team player Corey Neilson.
“Before when Great Britain used to go to these international events there were guys fighting and doing crazy stuff and now it shows we can compete at the international stage and the level of hockey is very strong. Not only did we win the tournament but we won all three games. We won pretty much everything all the way through.”
Nottingham continued with more chances. During a next power play Erik Lindhagen almost scored the third goal when Ritten goaltender Patrick Killeen seemed almost beaten after a horizontal pass but a miraculous save kept Ritten in the game. And a minute later the home team scored its first goal when Markus Spinell capitalized on a rebound from the right after a shot from Alex Frei from the left side.
The Italians got their huge chance to tie the game when Andy Sertich was sent to the sin bin for interference and Jeff Dimmen had to follow just four seconds later after a delaying-the-game call for shooting the puck out of the playing field. But despite the lengthy two-man advantage Ritten was still a goal behind.
“We had a lot of penalties there, it was tough especially for the penalty killers but our penalty kill has been really good all year so I was not really worried,” goalie Wiikman said.
Soon after surviving the situation, the British enjoyed a power play themselves and at 14:16 national team forward Robert Farmer scored the 3-1 goal for the Panthers.
“It’s amazing to be the first British team to do it. It’s a huge achievement. We scored a couple of power-play goals and our goaltender was sensational all weekend,” Farmer said after the game.
Ritten tried its best to come back and had more scoring chances during the rest of the game but Nottingham goalie Wiikman had a strong night. With 37.7 seconds left Farmer scored the 4-1 goal into the empty net to make things clear. The Nottingham fans who travelled to Ritten started singing “Campione! Campione!” using their Italian vocabulary.
It ended a wonderful tournament for the Panthers and let the party begin for the champions. Apart from the gold medals Wiikman also earned Best Goaltender honours. Beibarys Atyrau players Dmitri Stepanov and Albert Vishnyakov were named Best Defenceman and Best Forward respectively by the tournament directorate.
“It’s good to be at this big stage and actually be successful doing so. The boys are thrilled, I’m thrilled. We did whatever it took to win with solid defensive games throughout the tournament,” said Nottingham’s national team defenceman Stephen Lee.
The Nottingham Panthers had qualified for the Continental Cup Final as the first British team in seven years and winning the competition is the biggest international success for the team and will give it a chance to play in the Champions Hockey League next season subject to formal approval by the CHL board.