TWO goals in the final two minutes earned Newcastle Vipers a sensational victory that looked beyond them five minutes into the third period.
Danny Stewart’s team fought back from a 4-1 deficit to draw level on 53 minutes, before conceding a fifth goal which looked to have consigned it to its 34th league defeat.
But after taking a time-out, the Vipers hit back and with just over 90 seconds remaining, captain Paul Sample let loose an unstoppable shot for the equaliser. In the last minute Stewart’s close-range strike earned both points and atoned for the 7-1 loss away to the Braehead Clan on Saturday.
Having thrashed the Vipers 15-0 in the teams’ last encounter the Panthers arrived in Whitley Bay confident and started with back-up netminder Dan Green instead of Craig Kowalksi.
Early on Mike Prpich found himself in a scrap with Guillaume Lepine and both of the combatants, along with Viper John Schwarz and Panthers’ player coach Corey Neilson, were serving their time in the penalty boxes when the visitors went ahead on 12 minutes through Matthew Myers.
It was 0-2 on 15 minutes, Myers striking the puck past netminder Charlie Effinger. Four minutes into the middle period Myers got his third point of the early evening as a result of being involved in the Panthers’ third goal, scored by David Clarke at the far post.
As expected, Prpich and Lepine fought again on 37 minutes and the latter was thrown out for fighting while Prpich had to sit out another five minutes of the game.
The Vipers were operating a powerplay when they narrowed the goal gap, Stewart hitting the puck home after approach play involving Kyle Sibley and Jaroslav Rzeszutko on 39 minutes. Rob Bellamy restored the Panthers’ three-goal lead on a break away but it was 2-4 game three minutes later. Prpich was again in the home penalty box when Sibley let fly from between the face of circles to beat Green.
The defenceman then beat Green for the Vipers’ third on 51 minutes and just over two minutes later Hartmanis left a defenceman behind before scoring the equaliser. The Vipers could have been flattened when David-Beauregard capitalised on a rebound for the Panthers’ powerplay fifth with three minutes left on the game clock, but they weren’t.
When they left the ice for the first break at Braehead on Saturday night, the Vipers were already three goals behind. Netminder Charlie Effinger had made 14 of his 53 saves in total during the period but couldn’t prevent Brendan Cook netting a brace (four and 18 minutes) either side of a goal struck by Kyle Bruce (six mins).
Player coach Bruce Richardson made it 4-0 to the Clan on 31 minutes and just over a minute later, Dean Holland hit his fifth goal of the season and the Vipers’ first after a 184-minute drought.
Adam Walker added a second, the Clan’s fifth two minutes into the final period, the goal the 200th one conceded by Effinger this season, and the rout was completed with further scores from defenceman Jordan Krestanovich (43 minutes) and Bruce (46 minutes).
VIPERS: Sibley 2+4, Stewart 2+3, Hartmanis 1+1, Sample 1+0, Holland and Rzeszutko 0+1.
PANTHERS: Myers 2+2, Clarke 1+3, Beauregard and Bellamy 1+0, Ryan 0+1.
CLAN: Cook 2+1, Bruce 2+0, Richardson 1+2, Walker 1+1, Krestanovich 1+0, Campbell, Landry and Phillips 0+2, Chaumont and Dominic 0+1.
VIPERS: Holland 1+0, Sample 0+1.