Flyers aim to take down Giants in play-offs
An entire season comes down to 120 minutes of ice hockey this weekend as Fife Flyers go head-to-head with Belfast Giants for a place in the Elite League play-offs finals.
The two-leg quarter-final will see the Odyssey Arena in Belfast host the first leg on Saturday with the second leg taking place at Fife Ice Arena on Sunday, 6.30 p.m.
Big crowds are expected at both rinks and with the teams winning all their home games against each other this season, it promises to be an exciting, closely fought battle.
The Northern Irish side will go in as slight favourites after finishing runners-up to EIHL champions Cardiff Devils.
But Flyers coach Todd Dutiaume believes his team is more than capable of reaching the Nottingham final weekend for the third time in four years.
“There’s two questions that hang over this hockey club,” he said. “Are we talented enough to advance to Nottingham? 100 per cent we are.
“Are we going to bring what it takes? That’s going to be answered on the weekend.
“Every shift, every minute, every line change counts at this stage. Whether we go down a goal, up two, or come home even, it’s a six-period hockey game.
“You have to keep a level head, manage the score, and be prepared to battle for 120 plus minutes over course of weekend.
“We have some pretty formidable opponents in Belfast.
“They’ve been there or thereabouts all year but haven’t won anything so they’re going to want Nottingham as much as we do, and as an organisation, they might feel that they need it more because trophies have been elusive over the past couple of years.
“For us, we find ourselves in the play-offs for the fifth year in a row. We’ve been to Nottingham twice and I’d love to make it a third.
“Looking at the big picture, it’s been a decently successful season, but getting back to Nottingham would be a tremendous accomplishment for this club.”
To boost their chances in the first leg, Flyers will take the ferry to Belfast on Friday, staying overnight the day before the game, and travel back on Saturday night.
“Travel definitely has an influence on results in this league, but we’re going over the day before so we have plenty time to get prepped and take excuses away,” Dutiaume said.
Flyers will call upon Kirkcaldy Kestrels netminder Andrew Little for the first time after back-up Craig Douglas suffered a serious leg injury in the victory over Dundee Stars on Sunday. Douglas remains in hospital and may require surgery.
“Andrew has trained with us the past two years, and will join us for the remainder of the season,” Dutiaume said.
“He doesn’t have a great deal of experience at this level, but he’s a capable netminder who will come in and do a job for us.”
Dutiaume has called on fans to pack out the rink on Sunday for the final time this season.
“I’d like to hope that regardless of the score from the first leg, that this building is jammed,” he said.
“Play-offs are an exciting time, and it’s going to be the last game played in Fife this season.
“It’s a long summer without hockey and if we can fill this building up we’ll give ourselves every chance to advance.”