A new year, a new start for Fife Flyers in their bid to overturn their Braehead jinx.
Clan have had their number this season with five wins in six meetings, but there are more than just bragging rights on the line when the sides meet at Fife Ice Arena tonight.
Despite the head to head returns, Flyers sit just one point behind Clan in the EIHL with three games in hand.
There is surely no better time to re-boot the series than by starting 2017 with a win.
Fife sit in sixth spot in the league just as it starts to break into some clearly defined mini-sections.
Cardiff Devils are setting the pace at the top, four points ahead of Belfast and a hefty 10 up on Sheffield. Steelers must win their games in hand to even begin to make this a credible three-way title spring, but with their track record, and mindset, they can never be written off.
The middle pack of Nottingham, Braehead, Fife and Manchester are separated by just five points.
Panthers head the group, and it won’t have escaped Ryan Finnerty’s notice that his team have played more games than their direct challengers – fifth spot could easily become seventh on the back of a single fruitless weekend – but all four are infected by the curse of inconsistency. Great one night, bafflingly ineffective the next.
Coventry head up the third group in the eighth and final play-off spot, leaving Dundee and Stars on the outside looking in.
Games in hand are now key for two Scottish sides - and one of them needs to go on a run to shake up the standings, and they need to do it starting now.
Back in early October, Todd Dutiaume insisted this season would see strange results thrown up every weekend across every rink and he was on the money.
The Fife-Braehead head to heads are the season in miniature.
Clan have certainly got their number, and their performance in the 6-2 win on Fife ice was as a solid a road game as you’ll see executed.
But,it has to be said, Braehead have been there for the taking, regardless of what the stats may say. The losses have included some highly winnable games.
Few would bet against Clan taking the conference title once more – it’s their championship to lose – but that honour alone will not satisfy many within the Purple Army whose sights were set on the bigger prize of the league title, or, at the very least, a serious challenge to Cardiff and Sheffield.
But you can’t win titles playing .500 hockey or if you have already lost to every single club, except Nottingham, on home ice before Hogmanay.
Fife have made some great gains against the big guns with victories over Belfast, Nottingham and Cardiff, but nullified that progress by capitulating, frustratingly at times, to Edinburgh, Dundee and Manchester ... and Clan.
In fact, Braehead account for three of their seven home defeats so far. That’s a hefty quota of points taken out of the Fife rink in 2016.
So, there may be no better way to start 2017 than with a full house, two noisy sets of fans at full throttle and another huge head to head match-up between two teams with everything to shoot for in the new year.
To the winners, much, much more than just the spoils ...
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