12 game ban for choking incident

Matt Nickerson and Chris Frank tussle on the ice in the incident that led to the Fife defeceman's 12-game ban. Pic: Steve Gunn

Matt Nickerson and Chris Frank tussle on the ice in the incident that led to the Fife defeceman's 12-game ban. Pic: Steve Gunn

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Fife Flyers have backed defenceman Matt Nickerson after he was banned for 12 matches following a choking incident that took place during Saturday’s live TV showdown against conference rivals Braehead Clan.

Nickerson was ejected from the game, which Flyers won 7-6 after overtime, by referee Neil Wilson on a match penalty for “excessive roughness” after an altercation with Clan skater Chris Frank midway through the second period.

After reviewing the incident, which was broadcast live across the UK and Europe on subscription channel Premier Sports, Elite League head of discipline Moray Hanson has ruled that Nickerson should serve a 12 game suspension.

Hanson accused the Fife player of punching his opponent numerous times after dragging him to the ice, before proceeding to “choke” the Clan defenceman when he was unable to protect himself.

The EIHL chief also suggested that Nickerson ignored the officials instructions to stop, and that Frank suffered a facial injury and was in “clear distress” at the time of the incident.

It is Nickerson’s fourth match penalty since joining Fife in September - Hanson described him as a “multiple repeat offender” - and the 28-year-old American will now be forced to sit out until Flyers home match against Cardiff Devils on January 25.

Flyers have vowed to stand by the player, although the club will not be lodging an appeal against the decision.

Danny Stewart, associate coach, said: “We have had discussions with those in power and have no confidence that an appeal will change anything in this matter.

“We are backing Matty 100 per cent and feel the punishment is much too severe for the incident.

“We would imagine Chris Frank will be wearing protective equipment on his face or not playing as we were told he incurred a facial injury more than just a chicken scratch.”

For more reaction to Nickerson’s 12-game ban, pick up a copy of this week’s Fife Free Press.