Play-off pressure is on after mixed weekend for Flyers

Fife forward Jordan Fulton and Dundee player-coach Jeff Hutchins cross swords at Fife Ice Arena on Saturday. Pic: Steve Gunn
Fife forward Jordan Fulton and Dundee player-coach Jeff Hutchins cross swords at Fife Ice Arena on Saturday. Pic: Steve Gunn
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Fife Flyers 5 Dundee Stars 2

Fife Flyers produced their A game on Saturday night - and it was just too good for Dundee Stars.

After a disappointing zero point weekend, which included a painful 3-0 loss in Dundee last Sunday, Flyers needed a positive response to get their play-off aspirations back on track.

Any slip ups at home to the bottom placed club at this stage of the season could prove fatal, particularly with Coventry and Edinburgh hitting form, but Flyers were in no mood to give Dundee an inch as they effectively won this game with a period to spare.

By the end of the second stanza Flyers were 5-1 up - and good value for it - as they pummelled Dundee with relentless skating power, while the visitors struggled to keep pace, threatening only in occasional fits and starts.

Flyers also showed they can play physical and aggressive hockey without Matt Nickerson, who was not fit enough to play, but was kitted up for a seat on the bench. His mere presence seemed to ruffle Dundee feathers, as words were exchanged with the Stars bench throughout the game.

As hinted during the week, coach Todd Dutiaume mixed up his top two lines and the changes certainly seemed to work as Flyers found the offensive spark they had lacked the previous weekend.

The home side opened the scoring on 12.57 as Matt Reber hoovered up a rebound after a typically bullish drive to the net from Jordan Fulton.

While the momentum was with Flyers, Kevin Regan had to bail out his team mates after a few careless giveaways presented Dundee with good openings, and it was in the immediate aftermath of one of these saves that Flyers doubled their lead as Scott Fleming side-stepped a few sticks in the Stars zone before firing past Cheverie.

There was a scare for Chris Wands near the end of the period as he was knocked head first into the glass by Brad Plumton.

Wands dropped like a stone holding his head, but then red mist took over as he leapt to his feet to confront Plumton, only for the linesmen to intervene.

Wands retreated to the dressing room with the doctor, while Plumton sat out a 2+10 penalty for cross-checking to the head. Thankfully though, the Flyer was able to return to action for the second period.

It took Flyers only 14 seconds of period two to score their third as Fleming poked his stick at his own rebound and the puck looped over Cheverie and into the net.

By 21.24 it was 4-0 as Jamie Milam tested the durability of the netting as he sent a first-time missile into Cheverie’s bottom corner before the Stars netminder could even blink.

Stars pulled a goal back on 22.42 as Martin Cingel sneaked in behind Thomas Muir to net a rebound at the back post, but Flyers stepped back on the pedal to go 5-1 up on 32.44 as Cheverie failed to hold Fleming’s shot, and Jamie Wilson had a simple tap-in.

Flyers were able to coast the remainder of the game as Stars appeared to give up, although a stunning hit from Bari McKenzie, finding the top corner from the left wing on 44.44, gave the visitors the consolation of scoring the goal of the game.

The night, however, belonged to Flyers and head coach Todd Dutiaume was satisfied with his team’s response to the previous weekend.

“It was required,” he said. “We were down about last week’s results but you could see as soon as our first one went in, it was like a burden had been lifted off their shoulders and there was no looking back.

“I don’t think our game was perfect - Dundee capitalised on a few mistakes and had a few chances - but we did enough to win.”

Dutiaume explained the reasoning behind Nickerson’s appearance on the bench, even though he was not fit enough to ice.

“I wanted him to get a skate, and sometimes you never know what happens out there, but if games are going our way I’d like to give him a bit more rest before we get him back in the line-up, just so he’s 100 per cent,” he said.

“We didn’t use him tonight and we weren’t any worse off for it, so that’s good for us.”

Dutiaume also confirmed that he will consider asking the Elite League’s Department of Player Safety to review Plumton’s check to the head on Wands.

“We’ll probably send that in,” he said. “I’ll have to get a good look at it on tape but Wando was pretty rattled there.

“It was a check to the head so we’ll take a look at it and decide what we’re going to do.”

Period scores: 2-0, 3-1, 0-1

Flyers scoring: Fleming (2+1) Reber (1+1) Milam, Wilson (1+0) Haines, Lukacevic (0+2) Chaumont, Fulton, Stewart, Auger (0+1).

Stars scoring: Cingel, McKenzie (1+0) Hutchins, Gibbons, McCluskey, Dolan (0+1).

SOGS: Fife (Regan) 25; Dundee (Cheverie) 27.

PIMS: 8-22

Referee: A.Craig

Hull Stingrays 5 Fife Flyers 4

Fife Flyers left Hull with nothing on Sunday - despite being less than four minutes from victory.

Flyers looked to be heading for a third consecutive win in Hull as they fought back from 2-0 down to lead the game 4-3 going into the closing stages.

But two goals in the dying minutes, with Jordan Mayer’s game-winning goal coming with just 46 seconds left, turned two points into zero to leave Flyers hanging onto sixth place by a thread.

Hull’s victory means they are now only two points behind the Fifers with four games in hand, while Coventry’s four-point weekend means they are also now breathing down Flyers neck. Play-off pressure is well and truly on.

While the result was disappointing, the sentiment afterwards was that Flyers performance deserved a better outcome, with Hull coach Omar Pacha even confessing that his side ‘stole’ the points.

Carl Lauzon had put Hull in control with goals in the sixth and 17th minutes, only for Fife to wrestle the initiative back with three unanswered strikes in a second period blitz.

Ned Lukacevic rifled home a beauty on the powerplay on 24.22 before Nico Suoraniemi grabbed his first Flyers goal to level the match at 2-2 on 30.15.

A sublime Jamie Milam effort - shooting home on the spin after collecting a pass with his back to goal - put Flyers the 3-2 ahead on 33.44 but the visitors then lost Thomas Muir to injury, leaving them three D-men down with Kyle Horne and Matt Nickerson already out.

Hull capitalised to level on the powerplay with a booming slapshot from Will Frederick on 49.24 only for Matt Reber to restore Fife’s lead three minutes later as his pass across goal took a fortunate deflection off Brendan Jamison’s knee.

With just under four minutes left though Eric Galbraith pounced on hesitancy from a tiring Chris Wands to level at 4-4 before Mayer’s last-minute strike broke Flyers hearts.

Flyers pulled Kevin Regan in the time that remained in a frantic attempt to scramble an equaliser but the match ended with tempers flaring as Jordan Fulton and Eric Galbraith both picked up 5+Game penalties for fighting on the final buzzer.

Period scores: 2-0, 0-3, 3-1

Stingrays scoring: Lauzon (2+0) Frederick (1+1) Mayer, Galbraith (1+0) Jamison (0+2) Turcotte, Hervato, Osman, Tanaka (0+1).

Flyers scoring: Reber, Lukacevic (1+2) Milam, Suoraniemi (1+1) Auger, Fulton (0+1).

SOGs: Hull (Brown) 42; Fife (Regan) 35.

PIMS: 37-41

Referee: Stefan Hogarth