Challenge Cup: Belfast Giants retain trophy with overtime win against Flames
Belfast Giants have retained the Challenge Cup with a dramatic overtime 2-1 victory against Guildford Flames.
Jordan Smotherman hit the winner nine and a half minutes into overtime in Cardiff to make it back-to-back cup successes for Adam Keefe's men.
The game was tied 1-1 at the end of regulation time, with Pat Dwyer giving the Giants the lead and Jamie Crooks equalising for the Flames.
The Giants beat Cardiff Devils 6-3 in last year's final.
It was a thrilling finish to a tremendous final in The Viola Arena with Smotherman burying the puck past Guildford Flames netminder Chris Carrozzi and Giants keeper Tyler Beskorowany deservedly getting the man-of-the-match award.
The game began at a frenetic pace and, without a whistle for the first four minutes, it was Beskorowany who was the busier of the two netminders as the underdog Flames took the game to the defending champions.
He was at his best during the first powerplay for the Flames just after the halfway point of the period, repelling a number of quickfire opportunities although the Giants did have a good shorthanded chance from Josh Roach which was saved by Carrozzi.
The first man advantage for the Giants carried over the start of the second period and they used it to take the lead 31 seconds after the restart.
Dwyer faked to shoot and then carried the puck into the slot and fired it through traffic past the unsighted Carrozzi.
Going behind didn't deter the Flames who continued to win the majority of one-on-one puck battles as the action flowed from one end to the other, and they equalised when defenceman Kendall McFaull took a retaliation penalty behind the play.
Crooks' one-timer from the left circle went hard and low past Beskorowany to tie the game at 1-1 heading into the final 20 minutes.
The third period was dominated by the Giants but they continued to struggle to get pucks through on Carrozzi with the Flames defence getting sticks in shooting lanes and blocking a lot of shots.
Roach did force a late save from Carrozzi but the deadlock couldn't be broken as the game headed to overtime.
Dustin Johner hit the post early on for the Giants and Beskorowany made a string of saves.
At 69:30, it was Johner who forced the turnover behind the Flames goal line and his pass found Smotherman, who launched a one-timer past Carrozzi to cue the celebrations for the Giants.