Panthers 4 Vipers 3

Talk about snatching victory at the death! This was a lesson in playing for 60 minutes, generally we don’t snatch last gasp victories, that is usually the reserve of them jammy sods up the M1! However to win the game 15 seconds from time after a Vipers made it 3-3 just 30 seconds earlier was sweet as!

The game didn’t take long to get going, league leading Vipers took the lead after just 23 seconds when Matic Kralj fired over KSP’s shoulder to give the visitors the lead. The Vipers looked like extending their lead in the first 10 minutes as they were clearly the better side, but Panthers held on on weathered the storm. The equaliser came on the powerplay, Neilson blasting the puck by Michel Robinson. Just 27 seconds later Panthers took the lead with David Clarke scoring his first of the season with a trademark bullet which once again Robinson never saw go past him.

The second was notable for the amount of odd man rushes that the Panthers allowed the Vipers to have, however poor choices and finishing from the Newcastle forwards allowed Panthers to take the one goal advantage into the final period.
Early in the third, former Panthers favourite Matus Petricko chose the wrong player to cross check to the head in Dominic D’Amour. Petricko got 2+2+10 and a heavy beating by D’Amour for his trouble! On the resulting powerplay Panthers stretched the lead as Jade Galbraith roofed the puck from a tight angle to make it 3-1. Vipers aren’t the early pace setters for nothing though, and they pulled a goal back at 49.32 through Todd Griffith, with an almost identical goal to their first. Panthers then got nervous as Vipers pressed for the equaliser, but it wasn’t until a powerplay with just 2.19 left that the visitors drew level, Ryan Mahrle with a superb back handed finish. With everyone looking to overtime, David Longstaff was called for a blatant trip in centre ice, and Panthers had a powerplay with just 36 seconds remaining. The home side made it count, Galbraith once again having time to pick his spot and fire into the net to send the NIC into raptures as the game was won.

Vipers are certainly a different proposition this season, they are quick and skilled and will certainly shock a few of the so-called big boys. However Panthers showed great character to snatch defeat in the dying seconds and take over in pole position. Let ‘s hope that we are still there come March time.

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