Braehead Clan 1 Fife Flyers 5: Conference joy for Dutiaume

Fife Flyers head coach Todd Dutiaume. Pic: Steve Gunn
Fife Flyers head coach Todd Dutiaume. Pic: Steve Gunn
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Todd Dutiaume told his players to enjoy the achievement of winning at Braehead Arena.

And the Flyers didn’t only win two points – they humbled the home side with a gritty victory.

TJ Caig scored twice, to add to others from Kyle Horne, Michael Dorr and Ryan Dingle for success on the banks of the Clyde.

It sets Flyers up for the remainder of the Gardiner Conference, but they’ll still be relying on results elsewhere falling their way. However this win at Braehead means they did their one and only job this weekend, and emphatically.

Dutiaume said: “Both teams knew the significance of the game tonight, and they came out for the opening ten minutes and executed their game plan. We were fortunate to weather that storm but after it, for the next 15 minutes, we were defintiely the better team.

“Killing the penalties was huge, and people looking at the scoreline won’t realise that. If you go down a goal or two early in this building, it’s vey difficult to get back in the game. Kudos to the penalty killers.

“It’s nice to have a one game weekend, the guys can recuperate and enjoy the win before coming back to work on Monday morning. It’s not easy in this building, and a win here is not something we’ve accomplished all that often, so it is to be enjoyed.”

Early in the game David Brown’s goalmouth was the busier, not helped by a soft early penalty call on Shayne Stockton which immediately upset the Flyers’ rhythm. Braehead don’t have the most potent of power-play units and the visitors saw out the two minutes with relative ease. In the aftermath though Flyers still couldn’t get a grip on the game and it took until the penalty was killed and beyond for Flyers to register a shot on Chris Holt’s purple net from Kyle Haines on the fourth minute.

Still Brown’s goal was pressured but the fans favourite ‘Broony’ kept the puck out, though through good fortune at times. Spreadeagled on the ice Braehead passed up an empty net after the keeper’s save fell to a purple shirt, and another effort from Jamie Fritsch struck his team-mate Alex Leavitt before it could test the netminder.

Flyers though regained their rhythm and found momentum slowly edging back in their favour as the first period wore on. Unlike their hosts, they made the momentum count and Michael Dorr’s shaft deflection to Ryan Dingle’s shot from the line deceived Holt to give the visitors the lead.

They had to defend it short-handed almost immediately though as Dingle was penalised for boarding just 26 seconds after assisting the opener.

After the penalty was killed to send the Flyers into the first interval ahead Dingle was again central to the action at the restart. The 31-year-old took Stockton’s reversed lay-off and sent a wrist shot spinning under Holt’s glove-hand and into the net.

It was a far cry from the scrambling, desperate defending that had opened the visitors’ game yet they were ahead having found their groove after seeing out their penalties. Braehead’s Harper was binned for tripping on 26.09 but it barely registered in the Clan’s gameplan as they too found it straightforward to fend off the powerplay and once back to full strength they prospered with more repelled efforts at Brown’s goal.

It got better for Fife’s defence when veteran defenceman Kyle Horne spun the puck through Holt’s legs from Dingle’s pass on 35.22.

At 3-0 up the next goal was crucial and the home side reduced the deficit quickly in the third period with Scott Aarssen converting just 19 seconds after the restart. However hopes of a comeback were dashed immediately. Clan had little time to build on the confidence from the goal and consider clawing back the two goal deficit because TJ Caig restored the three goal advantage, assisted by Justin Fox, just 36 seconds later.

Victory was set by the goal and Fife sensed a significant scalp and peppered Holt’s crease with efforts. Even shorthanded by Patrick Cullen’s high-sticking penalty, Justin Fox still tested the home goalkeeper.

Dors’ attempt to find a double was foiled by the post, but Caig completed his brace with little over three and a half minutes to go, breaking away and clipping in the rebound after Holt saved his initial effort.