Belfast Giants come up short as Arlan Kokshetau win Continental Cup

Arlan Kokshetau players celebrate winning the IIHF Continental Cup
Arlan Kokshetau players celebrate winning the IIHF Continental Cup

The Stena Line Belfast Giants fell in the Continental Cup Final to Arlan Kokshetau after penalty shots at The SSE Arena.

Down 2-0 with 13 minutes remaining, the Giants produced a dramatic fightback to pull the Final into overtime and a shootout.

Yevgeni Gasnikov scored the winning penalty shot to deliver Arlan’s first ever European title and leave Belfast hearts broken.

Despite defeat, the Giants collect their first ever medal in European competition with a silver after a second place finish.

Sunday’s earlier game saw GKS Katowice of Poland defeat Belarus’ HK Gomel 5-0 to secure the Bronze Medal.

The Giants picked up two awards with Tyler Beskorowany named netminder of the tournament and Darcy Murphy named forward of the tournament.

Despite early Belfast pressure, it was Arlan who would open the scoring in this Continental Cup decider when Sergei Yegorov deflected Alexander Nesterov’s shot from the blueline at 11:51.

Vadim Yermolayev doubled Arlan’s lead at 18:08 when his effort squeezed into the Giants goal.

Belfast found the going tough in the middle period with Arlan proving difficult to breakdown.

The Giants outshot their opponents in the second period though Ivan Poloshkov was in fine form in goal.

The Giants took the initiative in the early stages of the final period and, at 47:44, the hosts got their reward when Chris Higgins pounced on the rebound following Kyle Baun’s effort.

The Giants piled on the pressure and Dustin Johner scored a dramatic equaliser at 48:58 to send the 5,000+ crowd wild in Belfast.

The hosts impressively killed off a late 5-on-3 Arlan powerplay to drag the final into overtime

The Giants were yet again called to penalty kill duty in overtime and Tyler Beskorwany as well as the Belfast defence stood firm to deny Arlan.

Into the shootout and despite Dustin Johner’s equaliser after Yevgeni Gasnikov’s strike, the Kazakstan side took victory when Gasnikov netted in sudden death.

On Saturday the Giants defeated GKS Katowice of Poland.

The 4-2 victory over GKS Katowice saw the Giants maintain their 100% record in the Final with two wins from two.

Giants goals came from Darcy Murphy (x2), Curtis Leonard and Dustin Johner with Belfast backstopped by an impressive Tyler Beskorowany.

The Giants had the better of the play in the opening 20 minutes, outshooting Katowice 13-7, though they found Kevin Lindskoug in fine form in the visitors net.

Tyler Beskorowany was also putting up a impressive performance of his own, making one unbelievable stop from Dusan Devecka when he seemed destined to score into the open goal.

Darcy Murphy pulled the Giants into the lead at 17:07.

Katowice drew level early in the middle period when Bartosz Fraszko squeezed the puck home at 20:14.

The Giants piled on the pressure and Kendall McFaull’s slapshot rebounded and fell kindly to Darcy Murphy who pounced.

Katowice equalised again when Janne Laakkonen danced around the goalmouth and finished well.

The Giants got their third period off to the best possible start when Curtis Leonard fired into the roof of the net at 40:15.

The Giants made sure of the Saturday win when Dustin Johner scored. Johner’s goal made it 4-2 and guaranteed a Sunday showdown with Arlan for the Cup.