COVENTRY Blaze produced a sensational third period comeback from four goals down to reach the Challenge Cup semi-finals with a 6-5 aggregate victory against Belfast Giants.
Blaze dumped defending champions Belfast out of the Cup with a dramatic shootout victory as JD Dudek scored the winning penalty after Coventry netminder Taran Kozun saved all five of Giants’ attempts at the SSE Arena.
Coventry will play Sheffield Steelers in the semi-finals with dates for the two-legged tie to be confirmed in due course.
After playing out a 1-1 draw at the Skydome Arena in the first leg, Belfast edged ahead at 16.26 through Ara Nazarian who redirected Cameron Pound’s shot into the top corner.
And after Kozun made two crucial saves at the start of the second period, Henrik Eriksson doubled Belfast’s lead at 33.23 despite Blaze coach Danny Stewart calling for a time-out moments earlier.
The Giants looked to have secured their place in the last four when Quinn Preston rifled home at 41.12 before Eriksson grabbed his second of the night at 43.42 to hand Belfast a four-goal lead.
However, Blaze reduced the deficit at 45.52 when Kim Tallberg pounced on a fortunate bounce of the puck to score.
And the visitors struck again at 51.01 as David Clements’ effort bounced off of Dudek and into Tyler Beskorowany’s net.
Blaze were celebrating another goal just 40 seconds later when Alessio Luciani found the net before Clements stunned the home crowd with an equaliser from long range at 53.18.
After scoring four goals in the space of eight minutes, Blaze forced overtime and, with neither side able to find a winner, the game went to a shootout.
And Dudek’s effort in the third round of penalties proved decisive with Belfast unable to find a way past Blaze netminder Kozun as Coventry knocked out the back-to-back defending champions.
Blaze are next in action at home to Guildford Flames on Friday, December 22 with the face-off at 7.30pm at the Skydome.
And Coventry then head to Guildford for the return fixture on Saturday, December 23 with the face-off at 6pm at the Guildford Spectrum.