‘’Every time we play Braehead, there is always something extra at stake…’’
Todd Dutiaume’s words set the scene for this weekend’s back to back matches between Fife Flyers and their Renfrew rivals.
The clubs meet in the west on Saturday in a league/conference game, and then in Kirkcaldy on Challenge Cup business 24 hours later.
The backdrop of Kyle Haines’ return, Brendan Brooks’ 1000th career game - coming against his old team - and Clan’s stuttering form would usually be enough to whet the appetite of both sets of fans.
But there’s more.
Flyers are gunning for a win on Saturday night to tie Clan for top spot in the conference.
On Sunday they’re angling for a victory that would take them through to the next stage of the Challenge Cup at the expense of their rivals.
That latter target underlines a 360-degree change in outlook.
A fortnight ago, after that painful 5-0 period loss in Edinburgh, progress in the cup was pretty much written off.
The coaching staff knew it’d take a collapse on the part of Braehead to keep Fife’s interest alive.
But, here we are, 60 minutes away from a complete reversal on fortunes. It’s Flyers’ last qualifying game - so it’s win or bust.
Dutiaume said: ‘’You go back through the years and there’s always something else at stake.
‘’We qualified for the play-offs while they won the conference, and then last year we had those epic quarter-final games.
‘’It just rolls on as the rivalry grows. All of a sudden, hockey lines up another one … if we win in regulation time on Sunday we go through in the Challenge Cup.’’
Flyers go into the weekend buzzing with positivity, while Clan’s stuttering form has seen them win just two from 12 games in all competitions.
That sparked the first change this week, with former NHLer Jeff Ullmer leaving the club after just ten games.
Dutiaume asserted. ‘’Their start is not indicative of them as a club - it’s indicative of how good this league is.
‘’Braehead are not a tenth placed hockey club. They’ll come good, and we have to be prepared for that.’’
Dutiaume has also seen Fife emerge from an early season mini-wobble - one that seems to have come to a head with that third period loss in Edinburgh - and he believes other clubs will have their struggles as results don’t go their way.
‘’Coventry are a very good hockey club, but they are going through it, and look at Manchester - they’re also very good club but we demolished them at the weekend. Everyone will go through those moments.
‘’Our conference has improved, and the old rules have gone.’’
Flyers go into the weekend with fans eager to welcome back former captain Haines - a player Dutiaume was delighted to see return.
‘’I have been talking to Kyle for a long time,’’ he said. ‘’I made no secret of the fact I wanted him to stay, but some time things don’t come off the way you want them to. That said, we kept in touch, and being prepared to move when we did meant we were able to bring him back.’’
Ric Jackman is on his way back to fitness - Dutiaume put him at ‘’70 per cent’’ in midweek with more training sessions and recovery time to come before any call needs to be made.
David Turon is also back skating, albeit in some discomfort, and won’t be rushed, but the club remains confident he’ll be back quicker than the initial four to weeks forecasted.
Carlo Finucci took a knock on Saturday and missed the win in the Midlands’ - ‘’he tried to play on Sunday, but it didn’t happen.’’
He too still has time to recover and made the weekend roster.