Capacity crowd celebrates Fife Flyers’ play-off success

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

Three moments featuring Matt Nickerson on a remarkable night for Fife Flyers - a night that will be talked about for years to come.

The post-game skate with the fans has been underway for ages. In fact it has just 20 minutes to run, and the big man has barely covered 20 feet rinkside as so many fans want pictures and tops signed. Every request was accepted.

Rewind to 51:02, and Nickerson stands with his fist raised to the roof like a conquering warrior in the middle of the pad having just dropped Kevin Bergin with a bone shaker of a punch that would have destroyed a pro boxer. It was a moment that energised a team and a rink.

Post-game with a beer in his hand, Nickerson was on media duties and he just beamed with joy. And pride.

How do you feel, we asked. ‘‘Super pleased! Unbelievably pleased! To get seventh and Dundee is just unreal.’’

Other than losing a tooth in the fight, it was a perfect night for the enforcer who is as approachable off the ice as he is utterly fearsome on it.

Nickerson spoke of the joy of securing the play-off spot in front of the biggest home crowd for 20 years, possibly even more - ‘‘we wanted it so badly, and to share it with the fans is just awesome! - and how the game had chewed up all his nervous energy, leaving him wide awake at three in the morning and again at seven a.m.

‘‘I want to buy everyone in the rink a beer!’’ he said. It’d be the biggest bar tab ever at in the rink’s history, but one that would never have tasted better.

The scenes of joy inside the dressing-room were remarkable - the bonds that have grown the length of the bench were evident amid the humour, the chat and buzz. The attendance, a stunning 3525, was held aloft by club webmaster Steven McLean for all to see ... and savour.

Todd Dutiaume stayed on the bench at full time to savour the scenes of celebrations before heading back to the room to address his players.

Looking back on a season that took so long to ignite and may now finish on the highest possible note he said: ‘‘I have been on a lot of teams and haven’t seen a run like this for a very long time.

‘‘Back in January we said to the guys ‘let’s enjoy this - what are we here for if we can’t enjoy playing hockey.’

‘‘This is the result. We made two changes, we tweaked some things, The guys could not have done any more. I am thrilled for them.

‘‘To get Dundee in the quarter-finals is fantastic. It also means a Scottish club will be at Nottingham. That shakes up the establishment a bit - and we have two exciting games to look forward to.’’

Dutiaume also noted that every other result on the night went against Fife, meaning they had to win - or they were out. No-one, absolutely no-one, did them any favours.

Fife were worthy winners, 4-1 against a Braehead side that was too indisciplined and occasionally ragged to grab the game by the scruff of the neck, but their own slot was already secured and their quarter-final opponents were set in stone.

Flyers led all night long with Tim Hartung getting a crucial go-ahead goal just 40 seconds before the first buzzer - a period in which Fife outshot Clan 15-5 and ought to have had more to show for the chances they created.

The first period flowed almost non-stop. The second was littered with penalties as some niggles emerged - Fife had to maintain their discipline and avoid getting sucked into a rammy, and they did, although there were moments it could easily have flipped.

The big fight came at 28:14 as Derek Roehl and the antagonistic Chris Frank, got tied up on the boards. Nickerson and Bergin came together and they kicked off, with Flyers enforcer really dominating the fight.

Bergin was tied up completely, and perhaps he’ll regret actually finally knocking Nickerson’s helmet off - his reward was a punch which dropped him to his knees. He was still shaken as he made his way to the bin to sit five for fighting.

Joel Champagne had Clan level but with Fife outshooting and outplaying them it was only a matter of time before they rang the red light.

Jordan Fulton’s goal on the PP was from point blank range, but the real insurance counter came at 36:45 as Tim Hartung tipped home a Kyle Haines shot.

Clan couldn’t repeat their third period recovery of Saturday night, and when the tireless Danny Stewart fired home the fourth goal at 49:40 the fans - and team - could relax. The play-offs were signed, sealed and delivered.

The celebrations at the final buzzer said it all.

Now they stand two games from a place at Nottingham - two epic Scottish derbies and, in all possibility, two more full houses.

Saturday cannot come round quickly enough for the fans ... or the big man.