You might be wondering what the Challenge Cup is and how the competition plays out during the season – well fear not, here is your guide to this Elite League competition!
The Challenge Cup is hosted each season by the Elite League and is one of four competitions with the others being the Conference Title, League Championship and the Playoff Championship.
The first eleven Elite League Challenge Cup Finals were contested over two legs with the final returning to a single game in Sheffield Arena in the 2014/15 season and the current holders are the Nottingham Panthers, who defeated the previous holders, the Cardiff Devils, 1-0 in overtime in the 2015/16 final, also at Sheffield Arena.
Since 2003, the Nottingham Panthers are the Challenge Cup’s most successful team, having won the title eight times. The Coventry Blaze and the Cardiff Devils have each won the cup twice.
…and the Giants?
Of course! The Giants claimed the 2008/09 Challenge Cup, defeating the Manchester Phoenix 6-5 on aggregate. Manchester won the 1st Leg 4-3 at home, however the Giants came back spectacularly with a 3-1 win at home to lift the trophy for the first time in history.
The current format of the competition has two Groups, A & B, with teams playing each other twice, once at home & once away.
Challenge Cup Group A consists of the Stena Line Belfast Giants, Braehead Clan, Dundee Stars, Edinburgh Capitals and Fife Flyers.
Cardiff Devils, Coventry Blaze, Nottingham Panthers, Manchester Storm and Sheffield Steelers compete in Group B.
It’s A Knock-Out!
When the Group stages end, the winners of the two groups will play the fourth-placed team in the opposite side of the draw. The second-placed teams will play the third-placed team in the other group.
These games will be played over two legs, with the highest-seeded team from the group stage getting the choice of if they want to play at home or away first.
The semi-final line-up is an open draw, with the highest-ranked team from the group getting the choice of if they want to play the first leg at home or away. If two teams of the same rank are drawn together, then it will be down to the teams’ records in the group stages.
The 2016/17 Challenge Cup Final will be hosted in Ice Arena Wales, Cardiff on Sunday 5th March 2017.
So, what’s next?
Currently the Giants are into the Semi-Final stage after winning Group A and dramatically defeating the Manchester Storm in the Quarter Final 7-6 on aggregate.
The Semi-Final 1st Leg takes place in Cardiff at the home of the Elite League leaders on Wednesday 1st February, face-off 7:30pm, with the 2nd and deciding Leg in Belfast on Wednesday 8th February, face-off 7pm.