FIFE Flyers have moved quickly to snap up two eastern European forwards to boost their bid to make the play-offs.
Slovenian forward Denis Kadic has agreed on a move from HK Maribor, while Czech winger Frankie Bakrlik has joined the Kirkcaldy side following his release from Coventry Blaze on Monday.
Both are aged 28, and Flyers’ player-coach Todd Dutiaume is delighted to get them on board so quickly after the recent loss of Matt Siddall, Mike Hamilton and Iain Bowie.
“Both players should arrive in time to train with the team on Thursday and they will be in the line-up against Cardiff on Saturday,” he said.
“The addition of these two really bolsters the line-up and allows me to have more options as coach.
“We now have to view every game as winnable, and pick up as many points as we can to get back in the hunt for the play-offs.”
Kadic has no previous experience of British hockey, but has played in Slovenia, Croatia and France – and a short stint in the AWHL in America.
“Denis comes from the same agent who flagged up Hartmanis, and who knows the talent we’re looking for in this league.
“He comes with a decent pedigree and we’re hoping he provides us with some punch in offence.”
Bakrlik has had a turbulent season, having been released by Hull Stingrays in November following just one even-handed goal in 27 games.
He was picked up by Coventry, but after posting three goals and six assists in 14 games for Blaze, they decided not to offer him a full-time contract.
Dutiaume explained: “He was an initial target of ours when he was released by Hull, and we were disappointed when we missed out.
“When he was released by Coventry we pounced quickly and we’re delighted he’s signed.
“He’ll give us that size we’ve been lacking up front. He’s physically strong so will have the ability to move some bodies around.
“We’re sure he’ll contribute on the scoreboard as well.”
Dutiaume also revealed that Matt Cohen is under-going tests this week to determine whether he can return to action against Cardiff.
He added: “His health is number one, but I’d love to see him back this weekend. These tests should at least put us a step forward with regards a timescale.”
Dutiaume has meanwhile insisted that team spirit is stronger than ever despite the loss of three key forwards in a week of upheaval.
He was speaking after his short-staffed side produced a rousing performance in the 2-1 defeat to Sheffield Steelers on Saturday – just days after Hamilton and Bowie followed Siddall out the exit door.
And the player-boss reckons that the committed display, which saw his team out-shoot the title hopefuls, proves that the club is capable of bouncing back from the recent adversity.
“I’ll never say I’m delighted with a loss, but I’m certainly delighted with response of my team,” Dutiaume said. “That’s one of the best performances this season.
“Everybody stepped up to the mark, and we didn’t have a weak link. Nobody expected that scoreline and nobody expected that performance, but I’ve had confidence in these guys all year.
“It just goes to show what we’re capable of against a team that is potentially going to win the league this year.”
Dutiaume went as far to claim that the departure of Siddall, Hamilton and Bowie could have positive impact on the Flyers dressing room.
“It’s been a very difficult year for me personally with regards personnel, but a weight’s been lifted off my shoulders this past week,” he said.
“The big thing I’ve realised since I started in coaching is the importance of chemistry in the dressing room.
“Even though we were in a worse position staff-wise, that was the most fun game I’ve played in all season.
“Everybody showed up, and there wasn’t a negative thing said all night, and that makes my job easier.
“Instead of putting fires out I can come in and just concentrate on putting a winning team on the ice.
“I love the atmosphere in the room now and I think the guys responded to it. With the addition of two new guys, this club is going to take this second part of the season head on.”
While Siddall and Hamilton have both moved overseas, Bowie has returned to Elite League derby rivals Edinburgh Capitals, although Dutiaume was happy to release a player who proved difficult to manage.
“It was at the point where he probably did me a favour,” Dutiaume revealed. “I was constantly disciplining him behind the scenes, and that was frustrating for me.
“He wanted his release, so I granted it immediately. Our atmosphere in the dressing room seems to work better now.”
Dutiaume also refused to stand in the way of Hamilton, admitting that he suspected the player would follow best friend Siddall out the door.
“I’ll never force anybody to stay because you’ll never get the best out of them,” he said. “Hamilton showed his class at times, but in his last two games I think he’d made his mind up to go.
“He was close friends with Siddall, and part of his reason for coming here was that his friend was here, so when it came I wasn’t surprised.
“Back in my day, guys played for the full year, whether they were happy or unhappy. Nowadays guys are of the persuasion that their career is short, and they’ll go for the biggest offer, but you also make a name for yourself if you start jumping clubs.
“I won’t blame anybody for wanting to leave the last placed club. Those guys would have been huge assets on a winning team, but they wanted something better.
“However, we do have guys who want to be here, who are taking on more duties, playing hurt, and still battling night in, night out. That’s what gives me heart. There are guys who want to do the right thing.”