Deserved point for Fife Flyers from tough game

Jordan Fulton. Fife Flyers v Coventry Blaze, September 6, 2014. Pic: Steve Gunn
Jordan Fulton. Fife Flyers v Coventry Blaze, September 6, 2014. Pic: Steve Gunn

The first point of the season is on the board - but more importantly, Fife Flyers took a huge step forward as a team.

They lost 5-4 in a penalty shoot out to Sheffield Steelers, but the scoreline doesn’t tell the full story of a superb night of hockey in Kirkcaldy.

Flyers stepped up a gear from the opening weekend and really took the game to play-off champions Steelers in the opening period.

They bossed them round the pad and took the game to them, playing sharper and smarter hockey than they did on the opening weekend against Coventry.

The team spirit was evident as early as 4:05 when Mark Thomas nailed Danny Stewart into the plexi with a bad hit, and Tommy Muir immediately stepped up to take him on.

They both got fives for fighting with Muir also taking 2+10 for instigating. The Steeler may yet face further punishment if Flyers send the game footage for review - the check was a degree away from mirroring that of Riley Emmerson for Edinburgh Capitals which earned him a ten-game ban from the new Department of Player Safety. The tariff has been set ...

The rink was still buzzing when Fife grabbed a sensational lead at 7:09 as third line forward Josh Scoon seized the puck on the wing and let rip with a peach of a shot which flew into the net.

Jamie Wilson then tried his luck with a shot as the third line really got into the game with some cracking shifts, but Flyers were hauled back to level pegging at 14:10 as Darrell Hay let rip with a thunderbolt of a shot from the right point.

Then came a huge turning point for Fife as line mates Matt Reber and Kyle Horne blindsided each other in a horrible collision which left both men on the ice with head injuries.

The impact came at speed, and neither returned from the dressing-room, forcing Todd Dutiaume to tear up his lines and rotate players for the rest of the night.

Horne’s departure meant Fife were two D-men down, while the loss of Reber’s speed and work-rate had a significant impact on their momentum and balance.

The second period saw Steelers pile on the pressure at times - and it was intense - despite losing Phil Hill on a 2+10 for checking from behind, and they grabbed a 3-1 lead which was incredibly harsh on Flyers.

Michael Forney scored short handed just two seconds from the end of a minor penalty at 35:27 and then Robert Dowd netted a rebound off Regan at 36:08

Scott Fleming rattled metalwork twice with two great shots, but it looked as though Flyers’ momentum had gone. They needed an early response in the third period and got it when Chris Auger rang the red light at 41:05.
Gord Baldwin was then late with a big hit on Danny Stewart, prompting Matt Nickerson to take the Steeler by the scruff of the neck and pin him to the boards. When he declined to, Nickerson left immediately, but he was still assessed a ten-minute misconduct for dropping the gloves, denying Flyers’ another key blue liner at a crucial stage.

But, again, they dug deep and got the equaliser their effort deserved at 45:20 when Milam made a great pass out of D to release Auger whose pass split the defence open for Ned Lukacevic to net.

The goals fired up the crowd and the team, but Forney’s late strike in the closing three minutes changed the mood.

As the clock wound down Flyers pulled netminder Kevin Regan, and the gamble worked as Jordan Fulton netted before being chopped down, sparking a huge melee in front of the nets.

Overtime flowed without stoppage - great chances fell at both ends of the ice pad - before it went to penalties.

Roy and then Forney were the only players to net, giving Steelers a 5-4 win overall.

While it goes down in the stats as a defeat the point was important - the performance even more so.

‘‘A gutsy, gutsy performance,’’ was Todd Dutiaume’s assessment. ‘‘We will get rested and hydrated and come out tomorrow with the same performance.’’