Big crowd & big game from Fife Flyers

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

A full house, some 5000 fans packed in over two nights, and, finally, a performance and a work ethic that made everyone sit up and take notice.

Fife Flyers may have lost this game 3-2, but on a night they were worthy of a share of the points, they played as one; a team that was committed, that stuck up for each other, and took a truly fantastic Braehead to the wire.

Clan came to Kirkcaldy 24 hours after seeing the title - their title - go to Sheffield, but needed the win to book a place in the Champions Hockey League.

They brought a huge and noisy travelling support along the M8, giving the rink a fabulous attendance of 3052, and played their part in a rollicking night of hockey.

When these great rivals rise above the panto villainy, the chirping and the vendettas, they don’t half produce some top notch games.

This one had one direction. Forward. Two teams playing attacking hockey creating chance after chance after chance. How it ended just 3-2 is a mystery.

Flyers needed - and got - the team performance that might just give them a glimmer of hope in the play-offs.

Instead of playing in fits starts, they were focussed and committed from the start, bowling into checks around the boards and sticking up for each other whenever a stick or glove was raised in anger.

Even the loss of a cheapish early goal to Neil Trimm at 1:05 didn’t see their heads go down. What a difference that made!

They went at Clan with some tenacity and had numerous chances to find the net before Jamie Milam blasted home on an 11th minute powerplay.

By then Clan had lost defenceman Scott Aarssen on a ten-minute misconduct for bumping his gums at referee Neil Wilson as Derek Roehl went on a roughing minor.

The ref was more than happy to let this game flow, and that approach produced a smashing night of hockey.

True he took the easy option binning Zach Ftzgerald and Matt Nickerson on tens for unsportsmanlike conduct for NOT fighting. Minors were sufficient as Fitzy offered to dance with Danny Stewart as part of their night of knocking each other round the ice pad, and then Nickerson offered to tango with the grizzly Clan man. All declined, and no-one dropped so much as a glove, but with five left on the clock, the ref figured better to call their night early.

It was a moment - one of many - which had the fans at full throttle. They got their money’s worth at the home of hockey tonight.

They saw Fife create some immense chances - how on earth Chris Auger didn’t finish with a pocketful of points is a total mystery - and also wing it a little bit too much in defence where they escaped from some tricky situations by the seat of their hockey shorts.

They saw a good Clan team pushed on to the ropes at times, but one always capable of driving ahead and matching Fife chance for chance before tightening up in the third to close out the game. Ben Davies fired Braehead ahead at 26:54 but Flyers rallied once more with Matt Reber leading as three on one break. He spun round, threw the puck ‘way out to the right, where, from a tight angle, Lukacevic one-timed a wicked shot past Jones.

The difference between victory and defeat was summed up in the third as Auger found himself wide open at the back post. The rebound from Lukacevic fell neatly, but he tried to control the puck and in that split second, the door slammed shut ... only for Clan top rush down the ice, with Stefan Meyer clinically converting the rebound off Leigh Salter’s shot.

As the clock wound down Fife kept pushing for an equaliser which their play - and performance - merited. They were worthy of one point and a pop at overtime or penalty shots.

Trey pulled Kevin Regan at 1:18 and again with 39 seconds to go.

They swarmed into Braehead’s zone and with 20 seconds remaining Reber’s brilliant move and shot came off Jones, fell to Fulton but he just couldn’t bat it home. So near ... and yet.

For Todd Dutiaume, there was much to take from the game despite the result. The issue of work ethic - heart, desire, commitment - dominated his post-game media chat.

He also saw a rink that rose as one and created a noisy atmosphere which urged the team on - and he wants more of that next week, but he also knows why it happened.’’Fans here will always respond to a team that works hard and plays for the jersey,’’ he said. ‘‘Give me the same atmosphere and work ethic next weekend and I fancy our chances.

‘‘We showed tonight how we can play, and that’s the work ethic we need to bring every night. Good things happen when you do.’’

>> Fife Flyers enjoyed two bumper crowds this weekend. Saturday’s game against Belfast Giants was watched by 2032 - and tonight saw 3052 take in the game against Braehead Clan.

>> Read Chris Auger’s take on the game in his exclusive chat with Matthedw Elder in the Fife Free Press - plus full play-off preview.