FIFE Flyers coach Todd Dutiaume broke his silence over referees to hit out at Rab Cowan’s performance in the loss to Dundee Stars on Sunday.
Stars claimed a 6-5 win courtesy of a powerplay goal in the final minute of overtime after Danny Stewart incurred a two-minute penalty for hooking.
Referee Cowan subsequently ejected Stewart from the game on a verbal abuse misconduct - his second of the match - while Kris Hogg also received a similar penalty after full-time.
Dutiaume defended his players, branding Cowan’s performance a “joke”.
“I don’t criticise refs because they are entitled to have an off-night, but he had put his whistle away in overtime” he told the Press.
“Guys were getting knocked down and hacked, and then he makes a nothing call which basically hands them the game.
“It’s frustrating, but this isn’t a top league in the world, so why would we have top refs?
“If us players were any better, we’d be in a higher league and the same goes for refs.We’ve all found our level.”
Flyers have had a particular problem with verbal abuse this season, racking up seven 10 minute misconducts, and three game misconducts, for comments made to officials.
Jeff Caister recently sat out a one match suspension after totalling three abuse penalties, but Dutiaume believes not all have been justified.
Dutiaume added: “I’ve sided with the officials because I think they do a tough job and they work hard.
“But maybe they are becoming too much of a factor in the game.
“Yes I want my guys to lay off the refs, but when it gets to a point where there’s a lot of dubious calls night in night out then guys get frustrated.
“I won’t say my guys are complete angels, some of them have deserved their abuse of officials, but some of them haven’t.”
On top of their penalty trouble, Flyers are having difficulty keeping players off the treatment table.
Casey Haines ankle injury looks like keeping him out the side for another few weeks, while Steven McAlpine suffered a broken collarbone in Tuesday night’s Challenge Cup loss to Nottingham.
With Kris Hogg also struggling with a sickness bug, Flyers could be without three key players for a crucial double-header against Hull Stingrays.
Dutiaume added: “If you give me my squad fully fit and healthy we look good, and I’m happy with it.
“But you can’t continue to run with men down, because the more I overplay these guys the more injuries we pick up and you just get weaker.
“We’re going to have to find an answer, and by that I mean getting some help in here.
“Bringing in a new guy has been a priority of mine for a few weeks, and now we’re missing a line of three top guys it’s becoming a must.
“If I’m being realistic it will be difficult to get someone in for this weekend, but sometimes adversity can bring the best out of guys.
“We are playing well and digging deep, and doing more than is asked at other clubs in the league.
“Most clubs have depth that allows them to absorb injuries and suspensions but we can’t afford to have guys off for 10 minutes let alone two weeks.”
Flyers travel to Hull on Saturday before welcoming Stingrays to Fife Ice Arena on Sunday (6.30 p.m.).