Fife Flyers: The EIHL stalking horses

Flyers players celebrate Kyle Haines' goal against Dundee Stars on Tuesday. Pic: Steve Gunn
Flyers players celebrate Kyle Haines' goal against Dundee Stars on Tuesday. Pic: Steve Gunn

Fife Flyers’ ‘Operation Play-offs’ has taken flight and is gaining momentum with every passing hockey game.

A team that had drifted to the margins is now stalking Cardiff and Hull with a ferociously predatory instinct.

Right now, outwith champions Belfast Giants, they are the hottest team in the EIHL - a side with absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain.

From 4-0 comebacks over Braehead to a rollicking OT win in Cardiff - amid a flurry of match penalties, gestures, verbals with refereeing nemesis, Dean Smith - to Tuesday’s big 3-1 win over a dogged but short-benched Dundee, Flyers are now finding new ways of winning games that previously slipped through their grasp.

And the confidence is starting to crackle along the bench.

“We know what we have to do,” said Derek Roehl. “Everyone is going out and winning their own battles, doing the right things and enjoying it.

“It’s always a lot more fun when you are winning and things are going well on the ice - we’re pretty loose in the room right now, and it’s fun.”

Roehl was in the thick of the action during Sunday’s win in Wales.

“It was interesting,” he said, with a smile. “It was a long journey and we didn’t want to go all that way for nothing.

“We’re chasing them in the league so it was important to get the win.”

Flyers’ bandwagon rolled on against Dundee on Tuesday with two power play counters helping to a 3-1 win over Stars; a result, said Roehl, that underlined the new found confidence in the room.

“It was a slow start for both teams, but again we regrouped in the room,” he said. “We knew they were short benched and we were missing big Matt (Nickerson), but we knew this was a game we had to win and we found a way to do it.

“A win’s a win ...”

And on a night when Raith Rovers were at home and Champions League football was live on TV, almost 1400 fans turned out to savour this new winning mentality.

As with all games against Stars it was ragged and tousy, noisy, gums were bumped and it had that extra edge which draws in both players and fans.

A goal-less first period was followed by a second stanza in which both teams hit minor penalty trouble as referee Neil Wilson made his customary mixed bag of bewildering calls.

In terms of hockey, short-benched Stars were dogged and got the go-ahead goal through Jack MacLellan at 26:09.

Flyers drew breath and then replied with a swift double. Ned Lukacevic produced a stunning backhand flick to find the thinnest of gaps for 1-1 at 33:03, and then, just three minutes later, impressive netminder Dan Bakala couldn’t hold Kyle Haines’ lob from the blue line, and the ever alert Jordan Fulton netted.

Haines then rang the red light on the powerplay at 44:20 to nudge the game safely beyond a Dundee outfit which looked disheartened come the final buzzer, and which ended short-handed as pantomime villain Jeff Hutchins sat out a high sticks minor penalty.