Fever pitch in Fife ahead of new ice hockey season

Fife Flyers players celebrate a goal during a Bay Hotel Challenge Cup game against Aalborg Pirates. Pic: Steve Gunn
Fife Flyers players celebrate a goal during a Bay Hotel Challenge Cup game against Aalborg Pirates. Pic: Steve Gunn

Fife Ice Arena will reach fever pitch this weekend as a new Elite Ice Hockey League season slams into action.

A big crowd is expected at the Kirkcaldy rink on Saturday night as Fife Flyers start with a home match against Coventry Blaze (7,15 p.m).

The pair will then meet again at the Skydome in Coventry on Sunday evening in a double-header opener.

With most of the squad retained, expectations are high among Flyers fans after a strong finish to last season.

Head coach Todd Dutiaume is happy to set the bar high, insisting the pursuit of silverware begins on Saturday.

“We’ve let the guys know what’s expected of them this season,” Dutiaume told the Press. “We want to compete for every bit of silverware in the league and that’s got to start from the first weekend.

“We can’t turn up in November and decide to start playing. It has to start on Saturday.”

Flyers warmed up for the new season with two exhibition games against Danish side Aalborg Pirates at the weekend.

A 4-2 win on Saturday was followed by an 8-3 defeat on Sunday for an overall aggregate loss, although Dutiaume was pleased with the work-out.

“We can take a lot of positives out of the Aalborg games,” he stressed.

“That was one of the most consistent teams we’ll face in terms of their skating and speed.

“The fact we picked up a win in the first game against a very good Danish club gives the players great self belief.

“And to get back to 4-3 after going 4-0 down in the second game shows we have the ability to come back at teams.

“We recognised that we needed to work on our conditioning and that’s what we’ve been doing this week.

“We’ve also been able to tighten up a few of our systems so we’re pretty pleased with it.

“For our first time on the ice it was a heck of a performance.”

Flyers will have three new additions - Chris Auger, Scott Fleming and Jamie Milam - making their competitive debuts this weekend.

Coventry, on the other hand, have a completely new-look roster including 10 new imports.

“They’ve made some big changes and lost some of their potent offence from last year,” Dutiaume explained.

“However, they’ve made good acquisitions like Tendler and Goertzen and they have solid D-men back there.

“By all accounts they’ve also signed a very big goaltender who stops the puck.

“They’ve been the poor relations in that southern conference for the past few years and they’re looking to turn their fortunes around.

“They will come at us hard but we’re only worried about ourselves.

“We’re not looking past Saturday but we’ll be going all out for a four-point weekend.”

Flyers are expecting to be cheered on by a big and noisy crowd on Saturday as they attempt to win their opening league match for the first time since joining joining the EIHL four years ago.

“A big home crowd is definitely an advantage to us,” Dutiaume said.

“The team feeds off the crowd when it’s loud in there - and we’re definitely up for it.

“Guys are returning because they feel they have unfinished business. They want to make waves around the league this year.”