Ice hockey: Braehead Clan miss title but qualify for Europe
Braehead Clan head coach Ryan Finnerty believes qualifying for next season's Champions Hockey League is the least his team deserve.
The Clan qualified for European competition for the first time in their history despite being pipped to the Elite League title by Sheffield Steelers in a bittersweet weekend.
And Finnerty waxed lyrical over the strides his side have made in such a short space of time as they look ahead to a two-legged play-off date with Hull Stingrays next week.
"I think going into the Champions League is the minimum this group deserves after a great effort throughout the season," he said.
"Falling one point short for the title is never easy to take, but the consolation of presenting our great city and this organisation to Europe is amazing.
"We did what we had to do on the night. Unfortunately, things didn't go our way elsewhere and I want to congratulate Gerad Adams and Sheffield Steelers on winning the title.
"It was bittersweet, but the bigger picture is that it's been a great season and a great ride.
"We've made massive strides this year and we're heading in the right direction."
Clan's 9-4 thumping of Hull Stingrays proved to be in vain and the mood around Braehead Arena appeared to feel like a defeat in the end.
A Matt Haywood goal and two from Leigh Salters got the Clan well on the way until captain Matt Keith made it four without reply.
Jordan Mayer and Eric Galbraith got the visitors on the scoresheet, but a double from Stefan Meyer restored Braehead's four-goal advantage.
Galbraith pulled another back, with Keith, Scott Pitt and Ben Davies adding Clan's seventh, eighth and ninth respectively. Jordan Knox added Hull's fourth late on.
With the title gone, Clan headed to Fife Flyers on Sunday and the mood was restored by the confirmation of second place and that route into Europe with a 3-2 win.
Neil Trimm finished a rebound from Scott Pitt in the first minute before Jamie Milam sent a slapshot flying past Braehead goalie Kyle Jones to equalise.
Ben Davies' cool finish in front of goal restored Braehead's lead in the second period, only for Ned Lukacevic to even things up at two apiece.
Clan took the points and second place in the third as Chris Auger's lost possession in the visitor's D-zone, sparking a counter attack that was finished by Stefan Meyer.
It completed a winless final weekend to the season for Fife, who now face newly crowned champions Steelers in next week's play-off quarter finals.
They went down 3-1 to Belfast Giants on Saturday as Evan Cheverie, Jeff Mason and Kevin Phillips put the visitors ahead in the second period.
Lukacevic clawed Fife back with a goal in the third, but they could not make any further headway into Belfast's lead.
Edinburgh Capitals and Dundee Stars ended their campaigns with a double header against each other as they both missed out on the play-off party.
The Capitals won in Dundee on Saturday with a 5-3 win.
Stars' Bari McKenzie cancelled out Riley Emmerson's opening goal in the first period.
Rene Jarolin and a second from Emmerson put Edinburgh firmly in the driving seat, with Greg Collins and Jordan Steel making the lead unassailable in the third.
Dundee hit back in the final period as Shane Lust and James Isaacs scored consolation goals to reduce the final deficit to two.
On Sunday, it was the Capitals who took victory again, winning 4-3 at home after the game went to penalty shots.
Dennis Rix opened the scoring for the Caps, but Stars took the lead through Ryan Grimshaw, Kyle Gibbons and Jeff Hutchins.
The home side levelled through goals from Emmerson and Jade Portwood, with youngsters Sean Beattie and Jay King scoring the penalty shots to seal the points.
Elite League weekend results
Braehead Clan 9-4 Hull Stingrays
Dundee Stars 3-5 Edinburgh Capitals
Fife Flyers 1-3 Belfast Giants
Edinburgh Capitals 4-3 Dundee Stars (PS)
Fife Flyers 2-3 Braehead Clan