OVER the past few years, hard work has often gone unnoticed at Fife Flyers.
Northern League opponents were so far off the pace that the team could canter to easy victories without breaking sweat, leaving the grafters in the shadows while the goal-grabbers lapped up the limelight.
But the tables have now turned – and that suits young Steven McAlpine down to the ground.
The 21-year-old forward, known as ‘Hamish’ in the dressing room, has emerged as Flyers’ stand-out Brit in the Elite League thus far, where his tireless skating and honest endeavour have earned him man of the match awards.
And while he is frustrated with the team’s difficult start to the season, he is delighted to now be given the chance to put his talents to good use.
McAlpine told SportsPress: “I don’t score many goals but it’s good to see that hard work gets noticed in this league.
“Last year there could be 20 goals in a game so the guy with 10 goals is going to get man of the match, and if I’m plugging away it just goes unnoticed.
“This now is my kind of hockey. I’m finding it a really difficult challenge, but I love it – it’s much better.
“To be skilful in this league you have to be some player but my strengths are in skating and hitting so it suits me to be out there bumping away.
“I’m enjoying the hockey but at the same time, of course, I go home frustrated after every game we lose. This must be how the other teams felt in the league last year when they played us.
“Even though we were winning last year you don’t feel that accomplishment. You can make 10 mistakes in a game and lose one goal from it whereas 10 mistakes in this league and it’s 10 goals.
“If you do score a goal in this league, or have a good play, it’s an achievement. I’m at the bottom of the ladder, but it’s good to be working up a ladder you want to be on.”
Defeat to Hull on Saturday left Flyers cut adrift at the foot of the table, but McAlpine believes the team is capable of much better.
“We do need a few more guys brought in, but with the quality we have in that room we should be winning more games than we are,” he said.
“We’re just as good as the Hull team we played on Saturday night. Everyone of our imports is a top player and all the Brits have quality – but we all need to be more hungry.
“We’re all proud to be at the Flyers, but we need a bit more pride in our game. It’s frustrating for me and the whole team because we know we’re better than this.”
Saturday’s defeat was over-shadowed by injuries to Willie Nicolson and debutant Toms Hartmanis - with Nicolson requiring emergency first aid on the ice before being taken by ambulance to hospital.
“That’s the hardest I’ve seen somebody go down from a hit,” McAlpine said. “We were really worried about him.
“We’re glad he’s okay, but it seemed to affect us at the time. It didn’t look like we got re-focused. We just sat back and made mistakes.”