Thrilling finale gives Fife Flyers victory over Clan

Fife Flyers logo large hi-res
Fife Flyers logo large hi-res

You can’t argue with four points from two crucial games - but Fife Flyers still have much to do.

Saturday’s 3-2 comeback win over an equally stuttering Braehead Clan was as thrilling as it was unexpected.

For two periods Fife were 2-0 down and heading towards a second successive shut out on home ice.

Their plays looked laboured and lacked any pace or sparkle as someone dumped the puck and set off in pursuit.

They were hanging in there - but only just.

The 2-0 scoreline after 40 minutes meant the team had played five full periods of hockey on home ice without scoring a single goal, and just one strike in eight. Those stats are damning.

Few in the crowd of 1900 - and there were empty seats aplenty in many sections - would have put money on a third period transformation which finally brought this rink alive.

Hockey momentum can turn quicker than a line change, and as soon as Fife found it, they came alive and Clan crumbled. They too are an under-performing team which a lot to figure out.

Flyers deserve credit for a game-changing third period, but the question is why didnt they perform like that from the face-off?

True, they fell behind to a rubbish deflection for Clan’s opener in the fifth minute - Matt Keith got the credit a- but Flyers really didn’t test netminder Chris Holt with their limited shots on goal in an opening period which just flatlined.

The home team looked subdued, almost playing within their own shell, while Clan looked more dangerous in attack and formed a tight wall around their goalie.

Ric Jackman pinged one shot off the post, and Alex Leavitt deserved a goal for his slick move, playing the puck off his skates as he drove the net only to see his backhand shot go narrowly past.

Clan’s second goal at 25:45 was well executed - Ben Davies’ vision and quick movement behind the net flat footed the defence, and his pass back was drilled home by Matt Haywood.

Fife’s struggle to find any tempo was summed up when they were on the powerplay and got caught with too many men on the ice - a muddle that brought groans from the home support.

It was difficult to see any other outcome than a defeat - and possible shut out - as the teams left the ice at the end of the second period, but, all it took was a goal to spark Fife into life.

Shayne Stockton’s cracking strike from just inside the blue line was the perfect start with just 1:14 of the period gone.

Barely 60 seconds later Fife squared the game as Justin Fox’s shot found Holt dozing on the goal line.

Suddenly Fife had the momentum, were skating with a sense of urgency and looking like a team that truly meant business. The Fife the fans want to see every period, every night.

The passes were crisper, the players clicked, and they kept Braehead on the backfoot - again, something they ought to have done from the very start.

After 45 minutes Chris Wands floated in a high shot which Paddy Cullen got a great tip on, and the puck flew narrowly past - Cullen then turned provider, flicking the puck to his left for Danny Stewart to send a thundering shot into Holt’s body.

The breakthrough finally came with ten minutes to play as Jeff Lee’s pass was perfect for Michael Dorr to step up and sweep home a fantastic shot.

Every single player surged towards him with purpose to celebrate - it was a telling moment.

With 1:27 Clan pulled Holt but Fife held out, amid a few seconds of gutsy if slightly gung-ho defending to ensure they kept the points.

Todd Dutiaume, head coach, hailed a ‘‘gutsy performance’’ adding: ‘‘Credit to Clan - they held limited our chances, but we got off to a great start in the third and found a winner.

‘‘In games like this you see how a bit of confidence changes the team attitude.

‘‘We are doing this for the guys sitting next to each other. It’s maybe time to be a bit selfish - we’re playing for us.’’

Two games into a vital triple header and Flyers have taken maximum points. A clean sweep? It’s entirely possible - but the empty seats around FIA on Saturday told another story.