Zero point weekend as Flyers clock off

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Would the real Fife Flyers please stand up?

The one which stands up to the biggest and best the league has to offer, the one which grinds out vital road wins in tough places like Hull, and the one which electrifies arenas with its commitment and style.

That’s the team which could do some real damage in the play-off race - but it seems to have a problem coming out to play every night.

Instead it sends out guys wearing the same tops who are pale imitations, and their muddled best just unpicks all the good work.

How on earth a team can post huge wins against Belfast and Cardiff and then cough up a zero point weekend against teams below them in the standings is a mystery. The league may thrive on its unpredictability, but Fife take it to a whole new level at times ...

If Saturday’s 5-2 loss in Edinburgh was poor, Sunday’s 3-0 shut out in Dundee was simply unacceptable.

In the rink of a Stars side that hadn’t won a game in regulation time since October, Flyers started well, skated up and down to the point of dizziness, blasted away like five hopeless golfers trying to get out of a deep bunker, and yet they never really looked like cracking the shut out let alone taking anything from this game.

Stars kept it tight round their net, found confidence in their goals, and absolutely deserved to celebrate a rare win and a first shut out of the season.

The loss of Matt Nickerson to injury was a factor - the big man iced in a handful of shifts before staying behind the bench - but this cannot be used as an excuse any more.

The players have to stand up and be counted.

Sure, on another night a chunk of their 29 shots would have yielded goals. Instead pucks struck players, sticks and skates, or went under their own sticks. Gaping targets were missed - I counted three, maybe four absolute on-the-money chances which should have been buried regardless of the team’s form.

Once again there were passengers - or, at least, players who flicked the switch to ‘off’ every now and then, stood back and let someone else figure out the play before mooching into view.

Flyers are sixth, but they should be a comfortable sixth by now. Instead, the race behind them has tightened up, big wins claimed, and Hull lie three points behind with a menacing five games in hand.

The drop from sixth to seventh is a very real threat, and seventh to eighth could follow within the same weekend - possibly the same evening.

The transfer deadline is passing and the decision hass been made to go with the existing team on the back of recent big wins and performances.

Barring an eleventh hour move to find someone new - and that’s a gamble that could as easily backfire as it could inspire - Fife are heading to the play-offs with their fingers crossed behind their backs hoping it’ll be alright on the night.

When it is, the results are a joy to watch.

But as a strategy?

Todd Dutiaume’s rhetorical question on benching an import brought to mind Mike Fedorko’s short tenure as coach.

Faced with a team that under-performed and infuriated - a team that came up short individually - he publicly threatened to take their pay cheques and give them to junior development, and was absolutely serious in his intention to drop star players and replace them with local skaters.

Such moves may be considered radical, probably even unthinkable in the EIHL game - they almost certainly won’t happen -but something has to be done to shake Flyers out of their narcolepsy.

On Sunday they buzzed in the opening period and created enough chances to crush Dundee’s fragile confidence - my notes include ‘‘Milam open goal’’ and ‘‘Reber unmarked back post, can’t hit target’’ - and yet came out on the wrong end of a 1-0 scoreline courtesy of James Isaacs’ goal at 15:48.

Same again in period two with the added woes of enduring some abysmal powerplays. The specialist unit ended up at nought for five. Say no more.

Igor Gongalsky made it 2-0 on the powerplay at 33:59, and you got the sense this game was already pretty safe even when Stars defenceman Ryan Grimshaw turned a tripping minor into a game misconduct for two ridiculous outbursts at the ref just a few minutes later.

The fact you didn’t even notice he’d gone spoke volumes for Stars’ ability to regroup, and for Fife’s utter inability to seize the initiative or break them down.

The third period followed the same tedious pattern - Flyers blasted away at times to zero effect, Stars broke out at every opportunity, and when Kyle Gibbons swept home on the powerplay at 46:49 it really was game over.

And for all Fife skated round and round in Stars’ zone in the closing five minutes, netminder Marc Cheverie’s shut out was never really, truly, honestly tested.

In truth, Flyers got what they deserved. Zero.

Once again too many players came up short and left the workers to shoulder far, far too much of a burden.

Until - or unless - that changes, Fife’s play-off participation will be short and not particularly sweet.

They need consistency. They must find momentum. without them they are facing an abrupt end to the season.

The answers lie in the dressing-room ...