Flyers secure victory in stop-start season opener

Fife Flyers opening their Challenge Cup campaign with a victory. Pic: Fife Flyers
Fife Flyers opening their Challenge Cup campaign with a victory. Pic: Fife Flyers

Fife Flyers 5 Edinburgh Capitals 2

Fife Flyers got the new season off to a solid start with a 5-2 win over Edinburgh Capitals in the Challenge Cup at Fife Ice Arena.

After a tight and sometimes scrappy opening two periods, Flyers stretched ahead early in the third with three goals inside four minutes ensuring no way back for a tiring Caps.

There were plenty positives in the Fife performance, with any booing on the night reserved for the farcical number of times that the nets became dislodged from their moorings.

Several times the game had to be stopped to allow ice staff onto the pad to reattach the nets leaving players frustrated, coaches exasperated and supporters fed-up.

It undoubtedly had an impact on the momentum of the game, which is unacceptable for a top flight league and must be addressed once and for all.

Putting aside the delays, there was enough encouragement in the Fife performance for fans to head home happy.

A number of players stood out - Liam Heelis with his two goals, Danick Gauthier had an edge all night, but it was Charlie Mosey who was the outstanding player on show, covering all areas of the ice while making things happen.

After watching his team fire 50 shots on the Caps net, head coach Todd Dutiaume was pleased with the opening night efforts, but believes there is more to come.

"I don't think we were at our best tonight, but we did enough and there's a lot of good signs out there," he said.

"My initial impressions are I'm quite pleased with this bunch.

"It's pretty much what we went out to recruit and there's even some nice surprises.

"If we continue to build on this, and with the addition of Stockton and another import, I think we look pretty formidable."

Flyers started with three forward lines, moving James Isaacs up from defence, while youngster Chad Smith was rewarded for an impressive pre-season with a start on the third line.

The Kirkcaldy side made an forceful start, leading to the opening goal after 4.20 when tenacious play from Evan Bloodoff saw him crash the net from wide, leading to a rebound which was tucked away by inrushing Heelis.

A stunning double save from Caps goalie Pavel Shegalo denied first Gauthier, then Mosey to prevent Fife taking a 2-0 lead, before Tyler Plews flattened Mosey with a late hit, prompting a reaction from home players that saw both Muir and Gauthier sin binned for retaliation.

The first period ended in slight disarray as play continued after the clock struck 0.00 before the officials eventually cottoned on and blew their whistle. The rink must invest in new net fixings and a buzzer.

The second period descended into farce as the nets simply refused to stay put, but credit to the two sets of players as they battled through the constant stoppages.

Caps drew level on 23.10 as Sergei Banashkov wasn't picked up in the slot and he drilled a puck low past Andy Iles for 1-1.

Flyers response was to lift the tempo and they restored their lead on 28.52.

The Caps defence were drawn into a battle for puck possession along the boards, and in doing so forgot to cover Schaber, so when the puck popped out, he had the freedom of the slot to pick his spot past Shegalo, which he did with aplomb.

Both teams then hit the pipework, Schaber going close to putting Fife 3-1 up, while Mike Cazzola almost made it 2-2 at the other end.

Fife were getting stronger and building momentum, while Caps were starting to wilt, and this pattern eventually led to a goal frenzy at the start of period three.

Bloodoff made it 3-1 on 41.12, touching home Peter LeBlanc's pass from close range, and it was 4-1 by 42.59 as Gauthier gobbled up a rebound after Mosey had turned defence into attack in the blink of an eye with a strong skate from zone-to-zone.

It was quickly 5-1 as Heelis got his second of the night, converting his own rebound, and the loss of three goals in quick succession prompted Caps to call a time-out.

Flyers got a little over-eager on the goal hunt, leaving themselves exposed at the back as Marek Tvrdom reduced the deficit on 46.31, but his night was to end on a sour note, ejected on a match penalty by referee Toby Craig after a rather aggressive barge on a linesman following an offside call.

Thereafter was effectively shooting practice for Flyers as they rained shots on the Caps goal, 24 in all throughout the third period, although they were unable to turn a five-minute powerplay, or their overall dominance, into a sixth goal.

All in all, a satisfactory opening night's work, and a platform from which to build from.

Flyers are back in Challenge Cup action tomorrow, travelling to Dundee Ice Arena to face Dundee Stars at 6.30 p.m.