THE Autumn Cup may never find its way onto the top shelf of Fife Flyers’ trophy cabinet.
But given the club’s recent troubles, the victory in the weekend’s exhibition tournament could prove just as important as any title won in the past.
After ending a difficult debut EIHL campaign in bottom place, Flyers were a club in desperate need of a lift before embarking on season two.
And that is exactly what Todd Dutiaume’s new-look team has delivered following Sunday’s brilliant 7-3 win over Braehead Clan at Fife Ice Arena.
“I’ll put my hand up and say we wanted to win this cup bad,” the player-coach told the Press.
“Positives were few and far between for us last season, and although this was only a preseason tournament against limited imports, winning it is a huge positive for us.
“If we can find a way to build on that, it bodes well for better performances this season.”
Flyers have brought in seven new imports over the summer, and added John Dolan from Dundee Stars, but despite the big turnaround in players, the team appears to have gelled quickly.
They took time to find their feet before eventually seeing off Edinburgh in Saturday’s semi-final, but Flyers were firing on all cylinders come Sunday night against Braehead.
“Team chemistry is something we’ve lacked it the past, so there was a large amount of vetting going on over the summer,” Dutiaume stressed.
“It’s not very often you have a group of guys where, three or four days in, everyone’s getting on and wants to hang out.
“A couple of wins definitely helps that.”
Particularly pleasing for Dutiaume, he pointed out, was the leadership shown by his imports over the weekend.
“The guys just took things upon themselves, and that was great to see,” he said.
“We’ve got three or four natural leaders in the room who are not afraid to step up and that really helps.
“Guys like Pitton and Hogg were looking at the scoreboard, recognising that a guy like Josh Scoon can do a job, and saying to him ‘you’re going for me next’.
“They have the freedom on the bench to make that call because they know the limitations on their body and recognise that a guy like Scoony is working hard and deserves to be rewarded with ice time.
“It’s the little things like that, taking care of our younger guys coming up, that’s going to make a big difference.
“Guys like Scoony might benefit very well this year if they are going to have help like that.”
Dutiaume was also beaming with his team’s response to going 3-2 behind at the end of the first period of Sunday’s final against Braehead.
“The atmosphere in the room after the first period was great,” he revealed. “There was no complaining to each other or pointing the finger.
“The imports have no problems being told if something’s their fault, and that’s great for team atmosphere.”
Dutiaume is, however, careful not to get too carried away by success in what was effectively a warm-up event for the real action, which starts this weekend with a Challenge Cup match against Edinburgh in Kirkcaldy on Saturday followed by the league opener in Coventry the next day.
“Let’s be level-headed about it – that’s not the teams we are going to face during the season but we’ve let the guys know that,” he said.
“But we’ve still got more in the tank as well.”
Crucially, Dutiaume already appears to have a clear idea of where each players fits into his line-up.
Forwards Jason Pitton, Caisey Haines and Kris Hogg were given the key first line role over the weekend and duly delivered a performance to match, with Pitton in particular impressing with his four goals against Clan.
On the second line, the hard-working coaching duo of Dutiaume and assistant Danny Stewart will look to provide the chances for sniper John Dolan, while the high energy third line of Steven McAlpine, Steven Gunn and Jamie Wilson will be asked to run teams ragged.
In defence, college mates Derek Keller and Jeff Caister were natural partners, while Zach Carriveau was paired with Kyle Horne, and Brit duo Chris Wands and Thomas Muir are sure to be a better defencemen now than they were this time last year.
Goalie Bryan Pitton, brother of forward Jason, also had a solid start to his Fife career, with some eye-catching saves and confident distribution of the puck, while Blair Daly proved last season that he can provide reliable back-up when required.
Dutiaume also revealed that junior development players will be given a chance to compete for ice time with Flyers this season.
He added: “A big part of us being in this league is we have to use and develop local guys.
“Do we want to do that to our detriment? Absolutely not, so we’re not just going to bring up anybody.
“We’ve got Jordan Crowe and Liam Cassidy up training with us, and they are ones for the future.”