Chase Schaber can instantly name the date of his last competitive game of ice hockey. November 6, 2015. It was, he said, a long time ago.
The road back to the ice pad has taken him from north America to the UK to start what he calls ‘‘a new chapter’’ in his career.
And the man from Red Deer, Alberta, fully fit and ready to roll, made the most of it, capping a great performance by netting the fifth and final goal in Fife Flyers’ excellent 5-2 season-opening win over Belfast Giants.
‘‘I really enjoyed it,’’ he said. ‘‘I couldn’t be happier here.
‘‘Being out was tough. It sucked, but now I feel sharp and my timing will come game by game.’’
Schaber’s goal sealed a thrilling win over Giants, and underlined the potency within Flyers’ lines.
Icing with MoM Ryan Dingle, and former team-mate Brendan Brooks – they iced together with Bakersfield Condors in the ECHL back in 2014-15 – their first competitive outing together caught the eye of many fans in the rink.
‘‘It was a lot of fun playing with Ryan and Brendan. We had a lot of speed, and our chemistry can only get better as we ice together and get to know each other.’’
The performance of the team, and the noise in the rink, also delighted the forward.
‘‘That was the loudest barn I have ever played in!’’ he said. ‘‘The fans were right behind us, and I thought we worked really hard. We won our own battles and played really well.
‘‘Huge respect to Belfast – they are a good team, but so are we, so this was a good test for us.’’
With the pre-season whirlwind now done and dusted, Schaber is also enjoying life in the Kingdom.
‘‘Scotland is a beautiful place. We’re right down on the water, there’s so much to see and I’ve bene taking lots of walks. It’ll be nice to call this place home for the next eight or nine months, playing for a team I’m really, really proud to be part of.’’
For Flyers, this was the perfect start to the new season.
They led Giants from the start, and were the sharper, faster team on the pad.
Belfast were minus a few key players, but that cannot detract from the spirit which infused Flyers’ play.
They took the opening period 3-0 thanks to some sparkling performances across the bench.
New netminder Shane Owen made some huge saves at key moments – the very sort of solid, re-assuring presence between the pipes Flyers didn’t have this time last year – while Ryan Dingle led by example, chasing every puck, and making every play.
But it was Stephen Gunn who ignited the season, turning home a bouncing puck for the opener at 8:!6.
Sebastien Thinel made it 2-0 at 15:25 with a shot off netminder Stephen Murphy and a defenceman, while David Turon wrapped up a hugely satisfying opening period with a third – a wrist shot from just inside the blue line – two minutes before the buzzer.
Giants grabbed a brief lifeline with a powerplay goal 24 seconds into period two – it came from the impressive David Rutherford, arguably their sole threat in front of the net – but Flyers absorbed the blow and quickly reclaimed their three-goal advantage with a peach of a powerplay move.
Russ Moyer banged his stick on the ice to collect the puck wide on the right and dropped the perfect pass at the skates of Justin Fox to net.
Rutherford netted again at 36 minutes but Fife remained in the driving seat all night and the victory was sealed eight minutes from time when they broke quickly with Dingle carrying the puck until sole defenceman Matt Nickerson committed, and then released Schaber for the execution.
Period scores: 3-0, 1-2, 1-0
SOGs: Fife (Owen) 39, Belfast (Murphy) 28
Fife scoring: David Turon (1+1), Stephen Gunn (1+1), Sebastien Thinel (1+0), Justin Fox (1+0), Chase Schaber (1+0), Russ Moyer (0+1), Shayne Stockton (0+1), Brendan Brooks (0+1), Ryan Dingle (0+1)
Belfast coring: David Rutherford (2+0), Brandon Benedict (0+1), James Desmarais (0+1)