Nottingham's Benedict ready for Belfast Challenge Cup test

Nottingham Panthers

Nottingham Panthers forward Brandon Benedict says their Challenge Cup final against Elite League leaders Belfast Giants is the ultimate test.

Panthers, who beat the Giants in last season's final, are aiming for a fourth Challenge Cup success in five seasons.

The sides meet for the first leg in Belfast on Wednesday with the return at the National Ice Centre next Tuesday.

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Cup order makes no odds - Benedict

"They are a good side and are first for a reason," former Giants star Benedict told BBC Radio Nottingham.

"No other team has the energy and speed up front that they have.

"They can all skate, they can all forecheck and they all finish their hits. They have a skating team who put pressure all over the ice."

Benedict, who played for the Giants in last season's final, says the fact Panthers are playing their away leg first will make no difference to their mindset or outcome.

"I don't think there is an advantage to being home or away first. It doesn't really matter.

Panthers came through a tough qualifying group containing Sheffield Steelers, Coventry Blaze, Cardiff Devils and Hull Stingrays to reach the final.

And skipper Danny Meyers says their achievements should not be overlooked.

"The Challenge Cup is arguably harder to win than the play-offs, especially with the group we get every year," Meyers said.

"I genuinely don't believe that what we've done in the Challenge Cup gets enough credit.

"Everyone looks at the fact we haven't won the league in so long, and the price is so high to win the league.

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Panthers shine in big ties - Meyers

"Here in Nottingham we're there to be picked at by other people. As a player you just get used to that."

Despite being in the usual position of being underdogs for the final, Meyers has faith his side will rise to the occasion.

"If you think about last season, when we won the Challenge Cup and the play-offs, we turned up for the big games," he added.

"We lost to Newcastle and other so-called lesser teams, but in big games we turned it up.

"This one, I think we're going into it as underdogs, which we haven't done before. We're going up against a Belfast team that's extremely confident, that's looking good for the league title. They are the best team in the league at the moment, that's why they're top.

"But if we can get a decent result there and bring it back to our rink, I feel pretty good about our chances."

You can listen to live commentary of Belfast Giants against Nottingham Panthers in the first leg of the Challenge Cup final on BBC Radio Nottingham at 1900GMT and online.

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