Fife Flyers hopes of a first ever British championship final appearance in the EIHL were ended at the hands of Nottingham Panthers this afternoon.
A 4-1 defeat pushed them into Sunday’s third-fourth place play-off against Cardiff Devils who were knocked out by a stunning performance from Coventry Blaze.
There was a general sense the better team won - Panthers punishing Flyers mistakes at key moments of the game and then riding out the match to secure their place in the showcase final.
Hopes had been high of victory after two stunning quarter-final performances to eliminate Braehead, but Fife found themselves under pressure from a Panthers side which seemed to find its tempo from the off.
Flyers were hemmed in from as Panthers put them under immediate pressure the second the puck was dropped in front of a capacity crowd at the NIC.
They were under the cosh until Chris Lawrence took a slashing penalty at 1:47 - breaking the stick of Phil Paquet in the process.
The powerplay that followed was scrappy, and there was a moment of real anxiety as Kolnik broke free and went one on one with netminder David Brown. The keeper stood tall and made the key save.
By the seven minute mark Flyers had started to settle and find their rhythm, and both Nico Sachetti and Paddy Cullen had good shots on goal.
But the period ended at 0-0.
That probably suited Flyers as they regrouped for the middle session, but they needed to take the game to Panthers - but chances were few until the breakthrough, and it came at Fife’s expense.
At 29:31 TJ Caig was called for tripping, giving Panthers their second power play opportunity of the game - and this time they took it with David Clarke shooting top shelf to finally break open the game.
One minute later Robert Farmer saw a wicked left wing drive fly off the Fife crossbar.
At 31:40 it was 2-0 as Panthers ramped up the pressure with a sweeping move, with the puck thrown from the left and MacMillan netted at the back post.
Two minutes later Clarke saw a shot crash of the outside of the post as Fife struggled to halt the tide.
They were handed two powerplay opportunities almost back to back - Cullen missed one golden chance, but Panthers specialist team did its job to allow them to go back into the dressing-room with a two-goal cushion.
Fife desperately needed the next goal and they got it thanks to Ryan Dingle, arguably one of their hardest working players on the night.
He fired a shot from near the boards and somehow found a gap between the pipes and netminder Miika Wiikman at 44:38.
They came alive. Stockton dragged the puck and his drop pass for Fox saw him fire a flick off the netminder’s pads, and then at 46:56 a goal that wasn’t.
Michael Dorr dug with dogged determination at the post, and amid the melee he got the puck in the net. The referee, who was right behind the net was adamant the whistle had gone before it crossed the line - his positioning was spot on - and Flyers barely had time to react let alone regroup than Panthers swooped down the ice, and Brad Moran fired home a killer third.
From 2-1 to possible 2-2 to 3-1 down in the blink of an eye. The momentum had taken one huge turn away, and Evan Mosey’s great move and finish for 4-1 at 54:46 sealed the deal.
Flyers now face Cardiff in the third-fourth place at midday on Sunday.