Crunch time for Flyers’ play-off push

Todd Dutiaume has a fall-out with Panthers players. Fife Flyers v Nottingham Panthers. March 2, 2013. Pic: Steve Gunn, shotbyagunn photography
Todd Dutiaume has a fall-out with Panthers players. Fife Flyers v Nottingham Panthers. March 2, 2013. Pic: Steve Gunn, shotbyagunn photography

JUST find a way to win hockey games.

That was the message from Fife Flyers player-coach Todd Dutiaume ahead of dramatic climax to the Elite League ice hockey season.

Flyers have five games left, all in the Gardiner Conference, starting with a trip to Dundee Stars on Sunday, that will utimately decide their fate.

The Kirkcaldy side currently hold one of the eight golden tickets to the play-offs, however the division is so tight that one defeat could see them slip back out of the reckoning.

Winning the Gardiner Conference would guarantee Flyers a favourable play-off draw, and that is now the club’s number one aim.

“This is crunch time and we need everyone to show up,” Dutiaume said.

“Everyone’s seen the standings - we’re all still capable of winning the conference, but we can all still miss out.

“We’ve got five games left - three away and two at home - and we’ve just have to find a way of winning those games.

“No-one is going to hand it to us. We have to go out and grasp it.”

This season’s exciting run-in is in contrast to last season’s debut EIHL campaign, when Flyers were cut adrift at the foot of the table.

However, Dutiaume admitted that Flyers progress this season will count for nothing if the team does not make the play-offs.

“Compared to last year this season this has already been a success,” he said.

“We’ve achieved great strides but that all gets erased if we don’t make play-offs.

“We’ve played exceptionally good hockey, especially at home, and been short-staffed most of the way.

“The players owe it to themselves to go on and achieve something.”

Dutiaume also believes that the team owe it to the directors to make the play-offs.

“We now have full squad - something the players wanted, the coaches wanted and the directors provided - so it’s up to us to give a return on the investment.

“We were very successful while playing short-handed so now that we have a full compliment of imports, there’s nothing to hide behind.

“The guys should be playing and fighting for each other. We need to see that desperation from them.”

With no home game this weekend, Flyers are expected to take a large travelling support to Dundee Ice Arena for Sunday’s must-win game.

“It’s going to take a huge effort,” Dutiaume said.

“Dundee probably see themselves as being in the best position to go for the division because they have more games left than the rest of us.

“We’ve only got this one game against them so we need to make it count. I’m sure it will be a great atmosphere up there, and Fife fans will make plenty of noise. We need to come out with the points and give us something to take to Breahead on Wednesday.”

MATTHEW ELDER

Twitter: @mattelder_ffp