The Belfast Giants made life difficult for their German hosts in their latest European road game, but after a narrow defeat, now need to get ready for their first domestic tie.
Adam Keefe’s men faced a tough travel week to take on first Liberec in the Czech Republic on Thursday and then Augsburger Panther in Germany on Sunday.
Having beaten the Czech side back home in Belfast, the Giants found it was a different story on the road and fell to a 6-1 defeat, with their goal coming from Team GB’s Ben Lake.
However, by the time they reached Germany, the side seemed to have found better road form and held up well against tough DEL competition –despite being short-benched, still missing the injured Jesse Forsberg and also suspended captain Matt Pelech.
Netminder Shane Owen stood tall for the Giants and they came out of the opening period still locked at nil-all with Augsburg.
Despite the travelling side improving as the game went on, the German team applied serious pressure and it paid off with a goal from Matthew Fraser - unfortunately for the Giants just as they managed to kill off a penalty.
The Giants had worked too hard not to at least get on the scoreboard and, in the final period of action, they got their goal.
Their top scorer in the competition, Liam Morgan, fired a shot on the Augsburg net and Brian Ward’s redirect ensured the equaliser.
Rattled, but still forging ahead, the hosts retaliated quickly and Henry Hasse’s goal just over a minute later edged them back in front.
With only a goal in it, the Giants had to put it all on the line and Owen was pulled from the net for the extra skater in the dying minutes of the game.
But when Augsburg’s Adam Payerl ended up with the puck, he took full advantage and slotted the puck home to give his side the win.
Augsburg had made 41 shots on the Giants’ net, with only two getting past Owen and one being on the empty net.
Despite the rivalry on the ice, the fans on both sides made the most of their European encounters.
Hundreds of Augsburg fans had made the trip the previous week to Belfast, causing quite the stir in the city centre as they gathered to march to the SSE Arena with their banners and flags.
And plenty of die-hard Giants fans made the trip to both the Czech Republic and Germany to back their team’s campaign.
Next up, the Giants – who are the defending UK champions – will kick off their domestic campaign with their opening Challenge Cup game at home against Glasgow Clan on Saturday night.
They are also the Challenge Cup title holders, having won the tournament the last two years running.