Fife Flyers head coach Todd Dutiaume has hit out at the Elite League’s Department of Player Safety after Matt Nickerson was banned for three games.
Nickerson was ejected by match referee Alan Craig for punching Braehead Clan defenceman Jeff Smith from behind the team bench during last Friday’s match at Fife Ice Arena, which Clan won 4-2.
The DOPS reviewed video footage of the incident and suspended Nickerson before throwing out an appeal from the Kirkcaldy club.
“We aren’t satisfied with the last couple of decisions that DOPS has made,” Dutiaume told the Press.
“We obviously attempted to appeal it but were promptly told there is no appeal process in place, which is pretty ridiculous.
“They couldn’t find the time to put together a review board, which is frustrating on our part.
“Do I think Matt is completely innocent in this? Absolutely not.
“But their player engaged our bench, then that player was hit back.
“You can’t engage a bench and expect no repercussions.
“We see it differently from the powers that be.”
It is the second ban Nickerson has received in as many months from the DOPS following a four-game suspension in December for fighting.
However, Dutiaume feels as though the length of bans have been unjustified.
“It’s not a perfect system - the DOPS is supposed to take into account all factors,” he said.
“Not one of our suspensions have resulted in an opposition player missing a game, whereas we’ve had guys injured for illegal hits that have not been punished the same way.
“It seems they are just throwing at a dartboard and guessing how many games guys should get.”
Nickerson missed Sunday’s defeat in Cardiff and Wednesday night’s Challenge Cup quarter-final second leg in Nottingham.
He will also be unavailable for Saturday’s match away to Braehead Clan before returning for Sunday’s home derby against Edinburgh Capitals.
“It’s pretty unfair but we’ll just get on with it,” Dutiaume added. “We’re not a club that moans and groans too often.
“We ate the last suspension even though we felt it was bit severe, but we definitely feel this time that it’s an injustice.”
Dutiaume admits he will now be forced to ask Nickerson to change his style in order to avoid more bans.
“It’s important Matt realises how important he is when on the bench and ice,” he said. “Teams definitely play differently against us.
“Guys are now antagonising him with no intention of engaging him in a fight.
“It’s clear nobody in the league is going to fight him, but we don’t need or want Matt to fight because when he’s on the ice he’s a very effective presence for us.
“His role may well have to alter a bit so he can find a way to stay in the game, but that’s what we wanted anyway.”
Flyers will also be without the injured Chris Auger, who could be out for several weeks, and Dutiaume revealed that he is now on the hunt for a new arrival.
“It’s something that needs to happen and is likely to happen,” he said.
“We’re actively looking for cover or a replacement, depending on the news on Auger - although it’s not looking great.
“We want a centreman but we might not have the luxury of being too picky. It will certainly be a forward.
“I’d be delighted if we got someone in for the weekend but I don’t think that will be possible.
“It goes down as another horrible bit of luck on our part - losing our leading goalscorer to another team leaving their bench door open.
“I’m not saying it was intentional, but even though it was an accident, we still end up suffering the consequences and that’s a big blow for club.
“It’s something that’s really thrown a spanner in the works because, at the point we lost him, Auger was right up there with the top scorers in the league.
“To lose a crucial player to something innocuous like that is hard to take.”
Dutiaume stressed the importance of two wins this weekend as Flyers look to close a nine-point gap to Gardiner Conference leaders Braehead.
“All our conference games are must win,” he said.
“We’re a good hockey club that can beat anyone on any given night - it’s just finding the catalyst that gets us going on good run.”