A waved-off goal saw the Belfast Giants tie with German side Augsburger Panther, only to narrowly lose out in sudden death overtime in their second CHL clash.
More than 5,000 hockey fans packed the SSE Arena for the Giants’ second game in European hockey’s top competition – including a large contingent who had travelled from Germany.
The Augsburger fans caused quite the stir when they descended on Belfast city centre and marched to the arena with flags and banners.
They were no less vocal once inside and the atmosphere proved electric before proceedings even got underway on the ice.
In the opening period, the visitors drew first blood with a goal from Matt Fraser - although the puck did appear to have gone into the bench.
However, with just over two minutes to go before the first break, Jordan Smotherman provided a great goal to tie things back up.
In the second period, Patryk Wronka’s feint and shot paid off with an excellent goal to give the Giants the lead for the first time.
The hosts did have a four-minute power play, but could not find a way to capitalise, although they held onto that slim lead into the third period.
However, Augsburger struck back and Marco Steinheimer’s goal tied the game at 2-2.
The sides battled on until it was the Giants fans that erupted in delight – Bobby Farnham had the puck in the back of the net, but there was a twist in the tale.
A lengthy review by the officials left the game hanging in the balance, only for the goal to finally be waved off for high-sticking.
Even Augsburger’s head coach Tray Tuomie had to admit afterwards: “We were fortunate that goal was called back.”
But the clock ran down on the 2-2 draw and it was time for sudden death overtime.
Augsburger quickly found their way through and Fraser’s second goal of the game clinched the win.
However, for the Giants to have put in two impressive performances in a tournament in which they were expected to be the underdogs will give them plenty of positives to take into their away ties.
“It was a great hockey game and we look forward to seeing Belfast in Augsburger,” Tuomie added.
“I think both teams deserved points tonight.”
The Giants now travel to face Czech side Liberec on the road on Thursday and Augsburger in Germany on Sunday.
Head coach Adam Keefe said his side would not handle the away games any differently, although they would be aware they would be going into a “pretty hostile environment”.
He added that to prove Thursday night’s win over Liberec in the opening game of their campaign “wasn’t a fluke” was special for the Giants players.
- VIDEO: Belfast Giants netminder Shane Owen on that waved-off goal