The scoreboard may show a 4-2 defeat to Dundee Stars, but that really was harsh on a Fife Flyers side that worked its socks off tonight.
They saw a goal given then taken away, and created enough chances to overcome a Dundee side that was superbly back-stopped by netminder Dan Bakala - the man who makes saves that break your heart.
‘‘Unbelievable’’ was how coach Todd Dutiaume described the stop he made to deny Tim Hartung early in the third.
It came with Fife back to 3-2 and Stars pinned on the ropes. Hartung stood front of the net. With the defence scattered, it had ‘goal’ written all over it and yet, somehow, Bakala made the save.
That moment summed up much of Fife’s night, So close and yet just one bounce away from turning this game round completely.
That they are now making chances was a huge source of encouragement to the coaching staff. The passes fired across the crease, begging for a stick to turn it home ... if the work ethic is maintained then surely it is only a matter of time before they start to be converted.
Dutiaume reflected on a weekend which contained ‘‘a great win and a very positive performance’’ and that is the baseline to build from as the club pushes into the second half of the season and chases eighth spot and a place in the play-offs.
They did more than enough to warrant a share of the spoils against Stars, and who knows how this game would have panned out had ref Rab Cowan not withdrawn the goal he gave so unequivocally at 36:43.
Stars were 3-1 up as Fife sweated to kill off eight minutes in minor penalties when Jordan Fulton flipped the puck from the blue line to the goal. Bobby Chaumont was the screen and the puck rolled into the net as he was shoved across and on top of the netminder. Cowan was perfectly placed and clearly called the goal as good.
That the team’s celebrations had been completed before he then washed it off after Stars’ protests was a source of annoyance for to all.
The right call? One to study in slo-mo on replay, but it was a turning point in a game which saw Fife come back out and really push forward in the third.
They cut out their penalty problems - some poor calls from the stripey didn’t help - stopped taking the bait from Stars’ player-coach Jeff Hutchins, and worked incredibly hard to find a way back into a game which saw them trail 2-0 after 24 minutes to goals from Sam McCluskey (powerplay) and Tyler Dowzak.
Chaumont grabbed a 27th minute lifeline, cancelled out by Bari McKenzie four minutes later.
Matt Reber’s superb effort at 44:01 was the lifeline they needed, and Fife really kicked on in a bid to tie this game.
They did so in the knowledge that, at the other end of the pad. Blair Daly was matching red-hot Bakala save for save. How on earth the netminder didn’t take the Fife MoM was just baffling.
Flyers had a golden opportunity when Hutchins went for a knee on Stewart followed by Pollastrone for hooking at 53:10.
They called a time out but couldn’t create the opening that would deliver a GTG; indeed it took a huge save from Daly to deny McPherson on the breakway.
The third line chucked in some buzzing shifts - again Bakala came up with the goods to deny Gunn.
In the end they gambled by pulling Daly only for Nikita Kashirsky to hit the empty net from wide on the left as the clock wound down.
Reflecting on the loss, Dutiaume said: ‘‘In past weeks if we went down one or two goals heads went down. Tonight the guys kept going and going. We had chances in the third and Matt Reber’s great individual efefort got us right back into it.’’
Dutiaume took many positives from the weekend, and also paid tribute to his back-up goalie who deputised for the absent Kevin Regan.
‘‘He stepped into a pressurised situation and he was superb. he was a credit to himself and tghe club.
‘‘We had a good chat with Blair down in Cardiff where he was nervous, but the 120 minutes of hockey this weekend he did himself proud.
‘‘We have a great netminder who we know can step in and the guys know they can rely on him.’’