Fife Flyers clearly have Braehead Clan’s number on home ice - Sunday saw them chalk up their fourth win over the title chasing Renfrew side, and it was a thoroughly deserved victory.
It took them back to the top of the conference, and opened the door to possible progress up from seventh in the EIHL; steps the club HAS to take as the season swings into the home straight.
In the league, Flyers have hit 40 points from 38 games, and remain five ahead of Coventry who have two games in hand.
Above them Dundee Stars - a side that has enjoyed a relatively pressure-free season up to now - on 43, but Flyers hold a game in hand and could close the gap to just one.
That makes sixth place attainable provided Todd Dutiaume’s men tap into the potential on the bench.
If they maintain the form they showed on Sunday then it’s definitely game on.
There was a solidity about their performance that was lacking on many hockey nights in the first half of the season.
Defensively they were strong - the bond between the blueliners and netminder David Brown has clearly grown and tightened, and the smile on the goalie’s face as the fans chanted his name after the buzzer pretty much summed it up. He was the clear MoM candidate.
At the other end of the ice pad we’re seeing a rather tasty partnership emerge between TJ Caig and Nico Sachetti, while Shayne Stockton is enjoying great form, and Ryan Dingle remains at the driving force.
They were all players in the win over Clan in which Fife led from start to finish.
Dingle fired them ahead at 9:58 and he had the last word with a long range empty net shot just 16 seconds from the buzzer.
Both sides had chances in a smashing game of hockey - Clan’s Ben Davies was lively all night long and worked his skates off to make things happen, but he was stopped dead in a big one to one by a defiant Brown.
Flyers cracked this game open after 15 minutes with a big goal. A shot off netminder Fullerton’s pads saw the puck fly to the left where the unmarked Phil Paquet spun round and netted with lightning speed.
They held the lead until the first break, but Clan’s response was instant at the start of the second - they needed less than 90 seconds for Davies to net the rebound off his own shot.
Braehead applied some heavy pressure in a period which referee Neil Wilson happily allowed to flow - quite why the whistler then started making back to back calls late on left players on both sides frustrated.
Flyers were given two powerplays and they netted on the first with Paddy Cullen’s left wing shot flashing past Fullerton for 3-1 at 27:53.
The third period saw more chances coming Fife’s way as Caig and Sachetti really tormented the Clan defence,but the game wasn’t a done deal.
With 52 minutes played, the referee binned Danny Stewart for hooking and then left Fife facing a five on three for 1:36 as Paquet went for roughing. The tap-in from Matt Keith for 3-2 set the stage for a fascinating last few minutes.
It got more intriguing as Fife lost Paquet to a ten-minute misconduct as he made two bids to confront a Clan player after a late check.
It was a big loss considering Kyle Haines had also taken a knock, but the team stood firm.
With 55 seconds to go Clan pulled Fullerton in a last throw of the dice, but despite swarming round Brown’s net, the puck found its way to the stick of Dingle, and he hit the empty goal from deep within his own zone to seal as 4-2 win.
For head coach, Todd Dutiaume, the weekend set the bar for the run-in
He was ‘’delighted’’ with all the performances across three games in three nights, and added: ‘Our defencemen played particularly well and when that happens we are a much better hockey club. We were solid in own end.’’
He also highlighted the impact Nico Sachetti has had since signing for the club - a hat-trick against Belfast (‘’it was a hat-trick’’ confirmed Dutiaume, the first from any player this season) adding: ‘’He has added a new dimension to us. He makes things happen around him.
>> Flyers are at home to Edinburgh Capitals on Saturday and on the road to Braehead on Sunday.