Storm clouds gather as Flyers draw a blank

Fife Flyers' Jamie Wilson battles for the puck in last night's defeat to Manchester Storm. Pic: Martin Watterston
Fife Flyers' Jamie Wilson battles for the puck in last night's defeat to Manchester Storm. Pic: Martin Watterston

Boos filled the rink after Fife Flyers were beaten and shut-out on home ice by conference rivals Manchester Storm.

The target of fans frustration could be open to debate as while this was an abject display from the team, and a costly defeat, there is also growing unrest towards the club's lack of activity on the transfer front.

For the second match running, head coach Todd Dutiaume was without an entire line of import forwards, with captain Ryan Dingle not risked as he nears a return from injury, Matt Sisca given a leave of absence for family reasons, and Shayne Stockton still out long-term.

While the team overcame similar adversity to defeat Belfast Giants a week earlier, continuing to produce winning performances, or indeed challenge for a conference title, while playing so short is extremely difficult for any team to maintain, particularly one without full-time Brits.

The loss of key point scorers was certainly felt last night as Flyers dominated swathes of the match but struggled for inspiration in front of goal, particularly on the powerplay as Storm went unpunished despite giving up eight opportunities.

Stockton has not made an appearance since the middle of October - a situation the club has yet to resolve with James Isaacs - a capable EIHL defenceman - playing out of position as cover for a top point-scoring centreman. He's doing his best in an unfamiliar role but he's not the answer.

Had the Stockton situation been properly resolved - and there has been plenty time to do so - then the loss of others may not have been felt quite so sharply.

Dutiaume is on record several times over the past few months stating his desire to make additions to his line-up sooner rather than later - and it's becoming more and more obvious as the weeks go by that this desire is not shared by his employers.

"Changes are not out of the question" was the curt statement from directors when questioned on the issue - but actions speak louder than words.

The financial challenges of running a gate-based club in a league of big spenders cannot be underestimated, but with crowds declining and discontent growing, action must be taken now to ensure all key positions are filled ahead of a huge run of conference fixtures, and to show fans where the club's ambitions lie.

Do nothing, and last night could become the story of the season.

Storm took an early lead on the powerplay as the back post was left wide open for Cody Cartier to squeeze the puck between Shane Owen's pads - and this played right into the visitor's game plan as they kept things tight and frustrated a blunt Fife attack.

Flyers were 0/3 on the powerplay by the end of the first, having failed to take advantage of a 30 second five-on-three, and that figure had risen to 0/7 by the end of the second, with another five-on-three wasted.

While plenty shots were fired Storm netminder Mike Clemente, and his post was struck on a couple of occasions, most of the big saves came at the other end as Shane Owen made two or three outstanding blocks to keep the deficit to just one.

Flyers first and second period endeavour was not matched in the third as the team ran out of heart and energy.

Any hopes of a grandstand finish were wiped out as Justin Fox let frustration get the better of him, smashing the puck against the boards after an offside call to take an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty with less than five minutes left.

He was no sooner back on the ice when Russ Moyer took a tripping penalty. Flyers returned to full strength with less than 40 seconds to go, and in the rush to get Owen off the ice for an extra skater, Flyers gave away an easy empty net goal to Darian Dziurzynski to cue the boos from the stands.

Crucial conference points are already down the drain and Flyers found to their cost last season that results at this stage of the season can ultimately determine where you end up, no matter how strongly you finish.

The club is at risk of repeating the same mistakes.