There will be no easing their way into the new year for in-form Fife Flyers as the big games continue to come thick and fast.
Flyers began 2018 at home to Manchester Storm on Wednesday where a 6-2 win extended the team’s current winning streak to five matches.
This is followed by two huge back-to-back conference games against Braehead Clan this weekend that could have a significant impact on the title race in Scotland.
Flyers claimed three convincing wins against Clan earlier in the campaign, but the Glasgow side are a different proposition having experienced a resurgence in recent weeks.
Head coach Todd Dutiaume is looking forward to the matches.
“It will be interesting to see how the teams match up and I know our guys will be up for it and to keep our winning form against them going,” he said.
“Braehead certainly had their troubles earlier this season but they have a few players who have been hot as of late, and we’ll need to be aware of.
“But the key for us is not to worry about other teams but to focus on our ourselves and to bring those solid, steady performances, that we’ve had from all three lines so far, into the rest of the season.”
The Flyers-Clan rivarly has grown to become one of the fiercest in the league and two bumper crowds are expected at Fife Ice Arena on Saturday and Braehead Arena on Sunday.
“Over the years it just seems like there has been that extra edge to these games with Braehead,” he said. “We’ve been chasing them down for a few years in the conference and there always seems to be a lot at stake when we face them.
“These games are a lot of fun to play and to coach in, and hopefully this weekend we can get more positive results against them.”
Dutiaume admitted that results this weekend could go a long way towards deciding the conference title.
“I think that this weekend is crucial,” he said.
“It will be interesting to see how we match up now playing against each other in mid season.
“We have this weekend and then soon after we have another two games against them at the start of February.
“The guys are certainly aware of what the weekend means and have certainly showed up in the games against them so far, so we’re looking for that to continue.”
Flyers go into the new year on the back of a fantastic December that saw them claim nine wins from 10 games in the league, as well as a 3-3 draw with Belfast Giants in the Challenge Cup quarter-final first leg.
The crucial second leg takes place in Belfast on Tuesday.
“It was a very enjoyable and successful month of December, where the guys dug deep and found ways to win a number of key hockey games,” Dutiaume added.
“We are looking for that form to continue into the New Year.
“Looking back to last weekend’s wins over Guildford and Edinburgh, they were two really different hockey games. “We didn’t make it easy on ourselves in Edinburgh but good teams find ways to win hockey games, even when not at their best. We definitely weren’t at our best but we did enough to win the two points.”