Fife Flyers believe they are better prepared than ever for this weekend’s assignment in the Elite League play-offs.
Coach Todd Dutiaume is leading a quietly hopeful Lang Toun squad to Nottingham with the firm aim of concluding the season’s final mission successfully.
Flyers had learned from two previous finals visits, he said, while their preparation and game schedule had been established early in the week.
Flyers’ qualification came despite the loss of Evan Bloodoff after the key scorer’s return from a long injury lay-off was curtailed in Saturday’s game.
He will travel to the finals, but is rated as ’’highly doubtful.’’
His coach was full of praise for the player’s commitment to kit up in the first leg.
‘‘He gave everything to play for us, and to do so at a high level,’’ he said. ‘‘He’s an old-time hockey player.’’
‘‘To come back was incredible . It was a huge boost for the fans and players to have him back in the jersey and on the ice.
’’We may not have won that match, but the minutes he ate up on Saturday were invaluable to us the next night, when we needed guys to jump in.’’
That commitment was key to Flyers’ ultimate qualification.
Dutiaume continued: “After Saturday night, we sat in the office and discussed the game plan, and fine-tuned what we wanted to change.
“Our message to the guys was ‘believe in yourselves and don’t look at the score. You only have to win a period at a time – break it down into attainable goals.
“We went down there probably not expected to win but this is a good group.
“I’ve heard it said before that they just don’t know when they’re beaten, and they proved it again on Sunday.”
Dutiaume said the momentum from good results earlier in the season had helped, along with an extended training camp in which the squad participated this year.
They had virtually three weeks of training before a competitive league game, which gave the players of time to gel.
The club’s approach was also key – no-one said they were going to win silverware.
“We said we were going to compete in every single game and aim to finish as high in the table as we possibly could,” he added.
“Those were our team goals. If you put the pressure of a trophy on your team, you’re always looking at that, and ahead of things, instead of a nightly basis or a period by period basis.”
The stage is now set for the club to push for a first ever place in the final.
“Players who have experience the finals weekend before will tell you there is say there’s nothing more exciting,” he added.
“It’s a great accolade to get there, but we’re not going to make up the numbers.
‘‘We’re going there to accomplish this final mission of the season. It’s important for the guys to remain grounded – they know if we don’t win on Saturday, we are done, so they want to take it to the final dance.’’
“This is a wonderful group, which has provided a tremendous amount of entertainment for the supporters this season. We have a great chance, I feel, and certainly deserve to be there.”