Flyers 0 Giants 1 - heartbreak at Nottingham

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Fife Flyers play-off finals weekend has ended in defeat - but by the most narrow of margins.

A 1-0 loss at the hands of the league champions, Belfast Giants, finally brought the curtain down on their stunning charge to Nottingham.

Kevin Phillips’ 47th minute goal was all that separated the sides after a truly remarkable game of hockey which could have gone either way.

Flyers produced arguably their best 60 minutes, sticking rigidly to the game plan across every single shift, soaking up huge spells of pressure as well as creating their own chances.

But they just couldn’t get the equaliser that would have taken this absorbing tie into over-time.

The atmosphere at the National Ice Arena was magnificent with the vast majority of the fans backing Flyers on their return to the national stage in only their third season as an EIHL team.

The noise levels grew louder and louder throughout warm-up, and an unaccompanied rendition of ‘Flower Of Scotland’ set the scene for a fascinating game of hockey.

Flyers made a great start, taking the game to Giants and creating good chances, but it was a tale of two netminders - Kevin Regan and Stephen Murphy.

Both were red hot, and both stood resolute under intense pressure.

A 0-0 opening period was just what Fife wanted - they were in their stride, and matching anything Giants could throw at them.

It was interesting to see it was the champs who started to flex their muscles in the second; some tasty checks upping the tempo in a bid to rattle Flyers.

David Phillips had already gone on a 2+10 for a check to the head which left Bobby Chaumont dazed midway through the opening period, but this was game where the hockey did all the talking.

Regan pulled off some stunning saves as Giants predatory forwards started to swarm round his net -and his defence was absolutely resolute.

Jordan Fulton saw some great chances go agonisingly close - one touching the bar - and Gunn, Chaumont and Reber all came so close. On another night, on another ice pad, who knows ... but the puck just didn’t bounce kindly when they needed it to.

Two periods of hockey couldn’t produce a goal, and, by then, Fife fans were daring to dream - 20 minutes from a first-ever EIHL final.

That third period started with Fife again taking the initiative - Danny Stewart driving forward and refusing to give up the puck until he found a space to get his shot away - but the game finally cracked open at the other end at 47:42.

Kevin Saurette’s shot from the right wing flew through traffic and found the net to the delight of the big Belfast support.

Flyers found themselves under pressure as the champs looked to kill the game, but, once again, they came back - there was no sense of panic as the clock marched second by second to zero.

Fulton was slammed into the plexi by Cody Brockwell at 58:25 and he slapped him around in return. They both sat out roughing minors.

With 1:44 to go Fife called a time out. They had a face-off in Giants’ zone and as soon as they seized control, Regan was pulled for a heart-stopping, thrilling last 100 seconds.

Giants missed the empty net - 2-0 would be been so hard on Flyers - and how on earth the puck stayed out of the Irish goal as gold, white and blue jerseys buzzed around it, no-one will ever know.

It wasn’t to be. The buzzer called time on a truly absorbing, high quality game of hockey, and, when the pain of defeat as eased, Flyers can look back on this season with immense pride.