Telford Tigers will play Milton Keynes in the EPL play-off final on Sunday after a 3-2 win over Basingstoke Bison in their semi-final at Coventry.
Saturday’s victory means Telford have a chance of securing their first-ever play-off trophy in the showpiece event at the Skydome Arena.
The Lightning beat Guildford Flames 7-3 in the opening semi-final encounter.
A cagey encounter saw both sides take the lead, before a Telford goal on 42 minutes opened the way for a gripping final session.
Tigers coach Tom Watkins said: “I thought it was a real hard hockey game, which flowed both ways and ultimately it was special teams where we were able to capitalise and get our noses in front.
“I watched the Guildford against Milton Keynes game earlier in the day and that was very similar to ours. It was very tight and cagey.
“I thought we established ourselves more as the game went on, but I was a bit disappointed with our powerplay and how we seemed to be outworked.
“But we found a way to win and that was the most important thing tonight.”
The first period on Saturday was played at a frenetic pace in front of a packed arena, with neither side gaining overall control.
But it was Basingstoke who drew first blood after just three minutes.
Derek Rhoel’s long-range effort was tipped into the Telford net by Aaron Connolly, as chaos ensued in front of netminder Jon Baston.
The Tigers hit back almost straight away, however, with a strike from Doug Clarkson.
The former Cardiff Devils star was first to a scrambled clearance to pop the puck past Bison netminder Derek Hiadlovsky.
Clarkson had the opportunity to make it 2-1 just before the interval, but his close-range effort sailed over the crossbar, with Hiadlovsky again left exposed.
Telford took control early in the second period, but were unable to convert a string of scoring opportunities.
That included a short period of five on three powerplay, as Basingsoke grew in confidence.
And that extra confidence resulted in a second goal for the Bison on 32 minutes.
Rene Jarolin latched onto a breakaway pass from Joe Miller to slot coolly underneath netminder Jon Baston.
Telford were soon back on level terms, however.
A charge from Matty Davies and Corey McEwen on 36 minutes was initially saved by Hiadlovsky, but defenceman Adam Jones was on hand to score with the rebound from close range.
The final period opened with Telford’s third goal of the night on 42 minutes.
Clarkson was again the scorer with a shot through Hiadlovsky’s legs, following a fine powerplay move and pass from Jonathan Weaver.
And Baston had to be at his best during the closing moments, as Basingstoke strung together a succession of attacking moves.
Watkins added: “Jon Baston had to come up big for us in the third period tonight, when Basingstoke really put us under pressure. He made some excellent saves.
“It was a massive performance from him. They say goalies win games and he did a great job.
“It is an exciting, fun weekend of hockey played in a great atmosphere and it would be great to go on and get another trophy against Milton Keynes.”
Tomorrow’s play-off final faces off at 4pm.