Fife Flyers are hoping supporters can turn Fife Ice Arena back into the fortress of old as the team looks to build on outstanding results on the road.
Flyers have won three of their last four away matches including two stunning comebacks in Cardiff and Nottingham that made British ice hockey sit up and take notice.
In contrast, the Kirkcaldy side has lost three of its last four matches on home ice, with lower than expected crowds and a lack of atmosphere notable at times.
The old barn has been renowned for its partisan support and intimidation factor, but empty seats, and quiet stands were more apparent during Saturday’s defeat to Cardiff, watched by around 1700 spectators.
A successful Fife side would normally expect to attract gates over 2000, which is arguably the level of support the current team deserves for its performances to date.
Head coach Todd Dutiaume hopes the the team and the crowd can work together to generate more noise and energy in the coming weeks, and help translate some sparkling away form back onto home ice.
“I’ve worked with some wonderful individuals in the past, but this is probably my favourite group of guys to work with, and a team we’ve really strived to put together for years,” he said.
“People are watching good hockey every night, but for whatever reason, if the game is not going the team’s way, the building does get very quiet.
“We went 2-0 up on Saturday and when Cardiff pulled it back to 2-1 the place became a graveyard.
“The expectations of a Fife crowd have always been very high, but regardless of judging a team on its 60 minute performance, it appears we’re getting judged shift to shift.
“Expectations have just got higher and higher every year, and now we have one bad powerplay and it’s getting booed in our own building. Psychologically, on a young hockey player, that is going to have an affect.
“That’s probably why you see some of these performances and comebacks on the road as they don’t have any other variables to worry about it.
“They are a group that’s really eager to please, and it does affect them when their home crowd gets down on them because they want to do well for them, and they want to have that bond.
“When we scored one late against Cardiff the building picked up again, but you can’t go out and score every shift, that’s not the nature of the game, so we have no control over that.”
Assistant coach Jeff Hutchins has experienced it from both sides of the fence, and he admitted that his Dundee Stars side were often intimidated by the hostile Fife crowd.
“It was definitely a really tough place to come back then,” he said. “If you went a goal down, you felt it was a mountain to climb.
“In all honestly, I don’t feel like that now being on this side. It has been quiet at times and it would be good if we could get the crowds back we were getting a few years ago.”
Economic factors, irregular Saturday and Sunday slots, the overall match-night experience – all can be considered factors but with a team that is showing genuine signs of contending for trophies, Dutiaume is hopeful that more fans will be encouraged to come to games and raise the roof.
“We need the people in the building or we cease to exist,” he said. “That’s just the mathematics of it and we’re very appreciative of the support we get.
“That’s why we set out in the summer to recruit a team that’s reflective of this community – hard-working, never gives up and comes in as the underdog and takes on allcomers.
“So far, based on the first third of the season, we’ve accomplished that.
“There’s a lot of hockey to be played, but we’ve been performing well and other teams are certainly taking notice of this club because it’s not luck to come back against these bigger clubs.
“Our players are exciting, dynamic, charismatic – it’s a group we’ve been working to put together for years, and every little bit of extra support would certainly help.”
Flyers face the league’s bottom club, Edinburgh Capitals, in back-to-back matches this weekend with the home match on Saturday followed by a trip to Murrayfield on Sunday.
Caps have not had their problems to seek this season, both on and off the ice, but with recent victories against Coventry and Dundee, Dutiaume is guarding his players against complaceny.
“It would be folly to go into these games thinking it’s going to be easy, because it’s certainly not,” he said.
“Not only do we have to deal with them at home, we also have to go into Edinburgh and everyone is very well aware of the damage done to teams in that building over the years.”