A hockey season has many highs and lows. Teams which start out on day one full of zest can run into fallow spells just as others rise to the top, and then bounce back again as everyone prepares to write them off.
For Fife Flyers, 2013-14 has been challenging, frustrating, at times infuriating, and yet, it is poised to end on the highest possible note.
Addressing the club’s player of the year awards night, Todd Dutiaume compared the tough times with the remarkable two-month long resurgence which carried the team in to the play-offs.
‘‘What we have accomplished these last two months simply doesn’t happen,’’ he said. ‘‘It happens to teams that go on to win league titles - what we have accomplished from tenth place and, since November, ninth place, has been pretty remarkable. It is amazing.’’
For Dutiaume and Danny Stewart, assistant coach, the team they built last summer has finally emerged and showed why they decided to stick by them.
‘‘There were a lot of expectations at the start,’’ he said, ‘‘and no-one felt it more than myself and Danny.
‘‘Right off the bat when we put this team together and looked at it on paper we were excited.’’
An inconsistent start saw points dropped as the team struggled to find its true tempo.
‘‘It’s amazing what a few losses or wins can do for a team. Danny and I were sitting in the office before training and games, and it was pretty quiet in the dressing room, but we still believed in these guys.
‘‘‘Around Christmas we lost back to back in Dundee and Edinburgh and a lot of people were ready to throw in the towel - that’s tough for players and coaches to take.
There came a point we went to into the dressing room and told them to realise what they were here for - to win games, to have fun and to earn a living ... and that a month and a half is a long time with nothing to play for.
‘‘Overnight , all of a sudden that changed.
‘‘We won one game, then two ... the transition was very quick.’’
Dutiaume spoke of ‘‘compressing’’ an entire season into two months, but with huge benefits.
‘‘This group of guys is really, really close. There are great personalities in the room and it has been a pleasure to work with them.’’
He also underlined the difference on game nights as Flyers found a winning groove, and delivered against the biggest teams.
‘‘‘When you are in the building watching a team winning, you are seeing guys having fun out there - that’s exciting,’’ he said. ‘‘Everyone in the room has played a huge part in getting us here and what we have accomplished is amazing.
‘‘But there are four more games to win - and if I was a betting man, I’d back them to do it.
‘‘They are confident right now, as a group they feel they can beat anyone, and, as a group, I am incredibly proud of them.
‘‘Let’s go out and it ...’’