FIFE Flyers secured their place in the post-season play-offs in front of a huge crowd at Fife Ice Arena on Saturday.
Over 2500 spectators packed the Kirkcaldy rink for the final match of the Elite League season as Flyers clinched a top eight finish with a 4-1 victory over Braehead Clan.
Results elsewhere also meant that, despite their defeat, Breahead clinched the Gardiner Conference title, leading to a mass celebration among home and, sizeable, away support.
Flyers now face the daunting challenge of knocking out league champions Nottingham Panthers if they are to reach finals weekend, which takes place in Nottingham on April 6 and 7.
Making the play-offs was player-coach Todd Dutiaume’s key objective for the club’s second season in the Elite League, and he was relieved that they had managed to achieve it.
“I would have been absolutely distraught if we’d missed out - a lot of hard work would have gone to waste,” he said.
“I don’t think people realise how badly we wanted it, and how much it means to this organisation for us to make the play-offs.
“It’s been a tough two years but we never gave up believing, and now it feels like a weight has been lifted off our shoulders.”
Dutiaume was also stunned by the atmosphere created by the biggest turn-out of fans at Fife Ice Arena in over a decade.
“I haven’t seen it that busy for years and years,” he said. “It felt good, it looked good, and it was exciting to play in.
“I’ve always said Kirkcaldy is a hockey town and that if you play good hockey, and give them something to play for, then fans will support you.”
Assistant-coach Danny Stewart echoed the sentiment, adding: “That was one of the best atmosphere’s I’ve ever played in.
“It’s a fantastic achievement for us to make the play-offs and the fans played their part.
“The last three games of the season were all do-or-die for us but we did what we had to do.
“Every guy stepped up to the plate and competed - I’m very proud of them.”
Flyers are at home in the first leg of their play-off quarter-final with Panthers travelling to Kirkcaldy for a 7.15 p.m face-off on Saturday.
A positive home result is sure to see a large travelling support follow the team south for the second leg in Nottingham on Sunday, face-off 4.00 p.m.
Flyers will be overwhelming underdogs against a team that beat them 10-2 in their previous meeting, but Stewart is confident the team has what it takes.
He said: “We’ve struggled against Nottingham this year but if we play tight and get a good effort from everybody, we can beat anyone.”