Fife Flyers have qualified for the Elite League play-offs - and now they want to turn Fife Ice Arena into a fortress in a pursuit of glory.
While Sunday’s stunning 8-2 win at Manchester Storm was not enough to win the Gardiner Conference – Flyers still need Braehead Clan to drop a point in their remaining four games – it did see the Kirkcaldy club clinch their place in the post-season play-offs for the fourth year running.
Flyers have two home games remaining – Nottingham Panthers on Sunday and Sheffield Steelers the following Sunday – before the play-off quarter-finals on the weekend of March 26 and 27.
Todd Dutiaume’s men have won six of the last seven at home with attendances regularly hitting the 2000 mark, and the head coach hopes that big crowds and solid home form can carry the team all the way to finals weekend in Nottingham.
“The people in Fife Ice Arena will respond to a team that leave it all on the ice,” he said.
“At times early in the season we were guilty of not doing that, but for whatever reason, the team got back their winning mentality and the fans have really got behind them.
“It’s important the team and the fans have a bond and some sort of unity.
“I’ve heard other coaches say that Fife is one of most difficult buildings to come play in the league. One of the reasons for that is we have a great ice hockey club, the other is that it can be an intimidating place when your fan base is right on top of the other team.”
Flyers will have one eye on Braehead’s double-header with Manchester this weekend and hope for the Storm victory that will turn Sunday’s match against Panthers into a conference title party.
With Manchester still battling for one of the two remaining play-off places, Dutiaume is certainly hopeful they can do his side a favour.
“It’s good to know that we saw our end of the bargain out,” Dutiaume said. “We’ve done everything we possibly could in the conference for the last three or four weeks.
“I’d be lying if I said I won’t be keeping an eye on other results more than usual this weekend but it’s completely out of our control.
“We’ll have a great week of practice to prepare for a Nottingham side that got themselves some silverware in the Challenge Cup last weekend, so they are flying high.
“We have four big league games left and it’s really a case of using these games to finish as high up the league as possible, and as a good solid tune-up for play-offs.”
In turning around the club’s season, Dutiaume has proved many of his doubters wrong, but he added: “I’m not in the business of making people eat humble pie. Everyone is entitled to their opinion.
“For me, whether we win the conference or not, we are going to finish on the same amount of points, and I really think we have turned this ship around, and had a great second half of the season.
“It’s a team that I personally have always believed in and they’ve shown what they are capable of. Whether they win this silverware or not, I’m proud of their turnaround and the way they’ve dragged themselves right back into things.”