Fife Flyers making most of pre-season to mould a new team

Fife Flyers 2018-19:The first face off of the 80th anniversary season as the game against  University of Manitoba Bisons gets underway (Pic: Jillian McFarlane)
Fife Flyers 2018-19:The first face off of the 80th anniversary season as the game against University of Manitoba Bisons gets underway (Pic: Jillian McFarlane)

Pre-season is the only part of the schedule where results don’t count for much.

Winning is good – it’s habit forming – but the focus of coaches is on how their team is starting to pull together.

Fife Flyers 2018-19: Shane Owen in action against University of Manitoba Bisons (Pic: Jillian McFarlane)

Fife Flyers 2018-19: Shane Owen in action against University of Manitoba Bisons (Pic: Jillian McFarlane)

Who fits in which line, which pairings work best, who is emerging as a team leader, as well a real focus on conditioning and shaking the rust of skates left in the locker room for most of the summer.

Championship winning teams can have the most horrendous of pre-seasons, while clubs which fly out the traps can crash and burn even before the clocks go back.

Fife Flyers are at the mid-point of their most extensive pre-season prep yet in the EIHL.

Gone are the days of bringing players in at the last minute and then stepping on to the ice and winging it.

Fife Flyers 2018-19: Dannick Gauthier in the penalty box  (Pic: Jillian McFarlane)

Fife Flyers 2018-19: Dannick Gauthier in the penalty box (Pic: Jillian McFarlane)

In 2018, training camps have a clear focus on sports science as much as drills and systems.

The work done behind the scenes are the foundations upon which entire seasons are built.

Flyers’ record after three games is one win, two losses, albeit one of them was to a goal scored with just seconds left to play.

Those results, however, will have been forgotten by the time Glasgow Clan roll into town for the first competitive game of the 2018-19 season on September 8.

Even hockey nerds who pour over stats tend to skip the pre-season scorelines.

What the fans – and coaches – are looking for are signs the team is coming together and lines are taking shape.

Three games in four days was a good, tough workout for Flyers’ new look squad.

The bench was busier than ever with some 21 skaters as trialists piled in, and guys such as Liam Morris – son of Captain Fantastic Frank – passed through en route to his new club, Basingstoke Bison.

New centreman, Paul Crowder, had the honour of bagging the first goal of the season in the opening game against University of Manitoba Bisons, which ended in a 2-1 defeat.

Dannick Gauthier not only took the first minor penalty of the new season, but also the first early shower as he was chucked out of Saturday’s game against Aalborg Pirates on a 5+Game for boarding.

Gauthier is one of a number of forwards with a bit of size and strength which could have some real impact this season as Fife look to defend their conference title.

The line of Brett Bulmer, Evan Bloodoff and Mike Cazzola caught the eye on a number of shifts - Bulmer and Bloods iced together with Kelowna Rockets in the WHL around 2010 and pretty much tore up the league, and they already linked smartly with Cazzola who looks to be an excellent pick up from the now defunct Edinburgh Capitals.

But it was the second and third lines which delivered the goals to underpin the win over Odense Bulldogs.

Chase Schaber and Paul Crowder were the marksmen on a night when Flyers carved out more than enough chances in the first and third periods alone to win with room to spare.

Bulldogs only broke the shut out with 90 seconds remaining after pulling their netminder.

They tried it a second time only for the clock to wind down, but Flyers looked comfortable sitting on a 2-0 lead for most of the evening.

One reason for that is the presence of Shane Owen between the pipes. The return of their all-star goalie was a perfect fit.

Against Manitoba he swatted several rasping shots clean out of thin air as Fife found themselves under some heavy fire – outshot 21-6 in the middle period – by a hard-working Canadian uni team.

Defensively, Evan Stoflet and Rick Pinkston have forged a good partnership, and Reece Cochrane has earned his early ice time, but Fife are still waiting on Scott Aarssen to arrive – ideally, they’d like him to get this weekend under his belt, but there’s no sense of worry from the coaching staff if he misses it while the paperwork his processed.

Aarssen knows the EIHL well, and if he is delayed then making his debut against former team, Glasgow Clan, might just be the perfect way to start life in Fife...