EIHL: Mind games begin as Flyers soar into third
It's the oldest trick in a book to try to scare off a dark horse in a title race.
As soon as they make a move, start talking up their chances of silverware in the hope the pressure buckles them.
And so the mind games began on Sunday as Fife Flyers – the EIHL’s form team that has made every coach sit up and take notice – moved into third sport with enough games in hand to turn this title race inside out.
In doing so, they displaced Sheffield Steelers.
Within minutes of the buzzer sounding, Dave Simms tweeted ‘’anyone have Fife Flyers as favourites? Have you seen their run in?’’
Flyers can expect lots more title talk as other clubs stack up the pressure in a bid to find the weak spot they’ve all struggled to pinpoint on the ice when up against Todd Dutiaume’s impressive side.
Fife were one of just two teams to enjoy a four-point weekend, the other being Dundee Stars who are clearly making a real push to hit the play-offs.
Flyers’ back to back wins over Braehead Clan tightened their grip on the conference, which they now lead by four points with two games in hand.
They needed overtime on Saturday to secure a 3-2 win, but two empty-net goals underpinned a more comfortable 4-1 victory in Renfrew.
It also extended their current streak to seven wins, and took them into their highest ever place in the EIHL … with the promise of much more to come. Little wonder the big guns are playing their mind games so early - the second half of the season has only just started.
Cardiff Devils continue to lead the league thanks to a big 5-2 victory which spiked Nottingham Panthers’ four-game winning streak.
It was a three-point weekend for the Welsh side as they went down 3-2 in overtime to Guildford Flames - another team impressing many with their strong work ethic.
Their hopes of a four-point weekend didn’t materialise, however, as they went down 4-3 to Manchester Storm on Sunday.
They were 4-0 down after 20 minutes before rallying to within one of taking this game into overtime.
It was a much-needed win for Storm who were on a four-game losing streak, going down 4-3 in OT to Nottingham Panthers the night before, and with their captain Jay Rosehill just beginning a hefty six-game ban for his outburst in Fife last weekend.
They came back strongly from a 3-1 deficit to tie the game, only to be beaten by Tim Billingsley’s OT winner.
Coventry Blaze remain a team in search of consistency as they scrap for a play-off place.
Their double header with MK Lightning saw them lose 3-1 on the road, but win 6-4 at home - with former Fife star, Ryan Dingle, firing a hat-trick of powerplays.
But it did come at a price, as Vojtech Kloz picked up a three-game ban for kneeing.
Sheffield and Belfast’s mutual dislike of each other surfaced as the teams played back to back across the Irish Sea.
One win apiece, and enough to keep DOPS buy across the weekend pretty much summed it up.
Spyro Goulakos and Colton Fretter had the obligatory ‘drop the gloves’ moment fight to settle their differences - that was always on the cards - but it didn’t stop Zac Fitzgerald from adding his tuppence worth later on with a nasty check on the Giants’ player, the purpose of which, DOPS noted ‘’was not to separate the puck from the puck carrier, it was to separate the puck carrier from the game’’ before nailing him with a four-game ban.
Goulakos was also suspended for the return game, while Belfast forward Seb Sylvestre’s pointless outburst at the officials late in the game earned him a two-match suspension.
Edinburgh Capitals’ season of misery continued with two losses to Dundee Stars.
Sunday’s loss was also more heartbreaking than most as Caps tired the game at 1-1 after regulation time to claim a rare point, only to be beaten on penalty shots.
They’re now 18 points adrift at the bottom of the table, and the pressure on them continues this Saturday with a trip to Kirkcaldy to face the in-form Flyers.
Whether Caps can summon the energy and heart to go at them in the same way they did the other weekend for remains to be seen.
Their season is shot, and with three months still to play, it’s going to be a very long, weary run-in.