Todd Dutiaume described the first two defeats at the hands of Coventry Blaze as heartbreakers - so he could have been forgiven for drawing the blinds and retreating to a darkened office after tonight’s 2-1 overtime loss on home ice.
It was a winnable game in which Fife Flyers did everything but score almost all night long as they were stoned by Blaze’s immense, dominant netminder, Brian Stewart.
They couldn’t find a way through, past, over, under or round the massive man in the mask. Not even a penalty shot could ring the old red light until, finally, Bobby Chaumont snapped the puck home with under ten minutes remaining.
They skated with pace and purpose, defended with strength save for one slip which allowed Blaze the go-ahead goal, piled on the pressure shift after shift in the first and third periods, and still couldn’t quite slay this hard working Coventry outfit. Hockey heartbreak indeed.
And yet, post-game, Dutiaume, found positives among the what ifs and if onlys.
’’First period we threw everything at them - literally,’’ he said. ‘‘We played really well and maybe our heads dropped a bit in the second. There’s a fine line between dominating, and a team pushing just too hard to get that goal and getting frustrated.
‘‘The game opened up for Coventry in the second, but we dominated the third, and we were confident we’d get a goal. On the bench we kept saying ‘it’s coming, it’s coming’ and eventually Bobby popped one in.
‘‘When you got to OT or a shoot out anything can happen, and I know the fans will be disappointed, and I know the players are - but this was another point against a big southern team. Down the line those points will be huge for us.’’
Dutiaume admitted defeat would have been hard to take.
‘’To lose - that would have been a heartbreaker, but we got the point. We’ll reflect on that and we will come back a better team for it.’’
The game proved to be another great match-up between two good clubs, and there were chances galore for both to break it open, but the night was dominated by two rock-solid netminders.
Stewart’s sprawling saves at one end, while Kevin Regan demonstrated why he is one of the very best in the EIHL with a save he made look almost easy as a short-handed Blaze charged down the ice on a three on nought break - three forwards, not a defenceman in sight, and still Regan blocked at the post. That saved deflated the Midlanders for a spell.
Flyers will look back on four power play blanks as huge opportunities missed, and an area they have to sharpen up as match-ups become ever tighter in this league.
They outshot Blaze 38-22 which sums up the flow of play and underline the need to be utterly ruthless when the chances do crop up.
They’re making great plays and more than holding their own against the big guns - that finishing touch now needs to be delivered to turn these one pointers into wins in regulation time.
Early in the second period Bobby Chaumont skated solo and went one on one with Stewart. Once again the goalie came up big to block.
Blaze finally cracked this game open at 27:29 when Fife left two skaters unmarked, and Tendler’s pass off the back boards was turned home by James Griffin.
There’s no doubt the goal swung the momentum towards Coventry and they had Fife under pressure for a series of shifts.
Flyers held out and regrouped during the break, coming back determined to get back on level terms... but then the big goalie loomed large once more.
With 50 minutes gone, Matt Nickerson fired a pass through the centre of the ice sending Jordan Fulton free. When he was chopped down, referee Alan Craig awarded a penalty shot.
Stewart was out of goal quickly to narrow the angle and he read Fulton’s move well, blocking the shot to keep Blaze ahead.
He was finally beaten by Chaumont at 50:42 - and that set up a huge push from the home team to finally nail this game in regulation time.
They scorned another massive chance when Craig Cescon was binned for diving, swarmed round the net as the clock wound down, but Blaze held firm
Three minutes into overtime, Jamie Milam was called for high sticks - a soft call considering the others that weren’t called, and one that left it four on three.
Almost inevitably the puck rolled to Rory Rawlyk , and he didn’t miss when placed in direct line with the goal.,
He skated back to centre ice, cupped his ear at the home crowd which had barracked him all night, and savoured the moment.
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>> Fife Flyers are on the road to play Dundee Stars on Sunday.