Todd Dutiaume arrived at Sunday’s post-game media briefing with a copy of the game sheet rolled up in his hand. It showed an 83-10 PIM count weighted heavily against his club in a crucial 4-1 loss to Sheffield Steelers.
His frustrations, however, weren’t just aimed at referee Rab Cowan, but also his own bench.
The result completed a tough weekend which saw Flyers fail to take a single point and slip to ninth place on the back of a five-match losing streak.
Flyers blue line was left in tatters as Kyle Haines retired injured after hitting the boards, and Kyle Horne and Matt Nickerson were both thrown out amid some chaotic moments.
Not for the first time Dutiaume was moved to question Cowan’s handling of the game, branding him ‘‘out of his depth’’ but he was also left frustrated by his players for drawing so many penalties which led to a huge effort by the penalty killing team simply to keep them alfoat.
A game that looked very winnable in a bright opening period drifted loose through the red mists of indiscipline and utter frustration which descended on the rink.
Dutiaume said: ‘We challenged the guys in the room and they came out and battled well, but night in, night out we give the refs excuses to give us penalties - and it’s selfish, selfish things.
‘’Cowan was out of his depth and the league owes us an explanation - it was a shocking display - but I don’t blame him for the loss. We put ourselves in that position.’’
Dutiaume spoke about the passengers on the bench after Saturday’s loss in Braehead, and it was a theme he returned to after Sunday’s match.
‘‘We don’t feel we are a ninth placed team, but the standings don’t lie,’’ he said. ‘’We are a team that plays on its confidence, and right now we are finding ways of losing hockey games.
‘‘Guys like Fleming, Auger, Regan, Haines and a few others are solid every night, but some guys are not delivering, The priorities are all wrong - you got to be in shape. I was envious of Braehead’s work ethic on Saturday.
‘‘What is missing is the desire to lay it on the line.’’
Flyers certainly started the game well -playing with tempo and grit in an opening period which they were on the front foot throughout, making some good chances albeit going in at 0-0.
The second period saw Steelers come more into their own but the game became a complete and utter mess as Cowan whistled up a raft of penalties. The red mist descended , - you could see it settle amid scenes of fury and utter frustration on and off the ice - the momentum was sucked out of the game, and the crowd turned its wrath on the stripey.
It started badly as Kyle Haines was injured going into the boards in the opening minute, and Fife’s blue line was depleted further when Kyle Horne was thrown out on a 2+10+game for misconduct after an outburst at the ref who had got in the way of the puck once too often.
By then Steelers had broken the dreadlock with Matthieu Roy netting the first of his hat-trick as he was wide open at the back post.
Flyers responded with a great short-handed goal on the half hour as Fulton carried the puck for Fleming to sweep home, but hopes of a big win effectively evaporated as the penalties came thick and fast.
Steelers were handed powerplay after powerplay - including several five on threes - and while the penalty killing unit turned up for duty time after time, it left Fife with no chance to get a grip back on this game.
The period ended with Matt Nickerson - who had twice offered players to go in a no-nonsense display - swiping the stick of Ben O’Connor, and Steelers sitting on a 2-1 lead.
Roy made it 3-1 and three minutes into the third Nickerson was gone on a match for fighting after piling into another goalmouth melee and taking out Cullen Eddy.
After that it was one uphill slog as Fife’s irritation at the referee was clear for all to see.
With 2:23 they called a time out and pulled Regan, but lost an empty net strike to Tyler Mossienko at 59:14.
The crowd was in no doubt who was to blame and singled out Cowan with a torrent of criticism.
True, he had a shocking game, but to lay all the blame at his skates is to ignore the underlying issues openly addressed by Dutiaume in his post-game briefing.
Two losses and a drop to ninth place - a defining weekend?