With play-offs fast approaching, Fife Flyers coach Todd Dutiaume has demanded no repeat of the weekend inconsistency that saw the best and worst of his team on display.
Flyers followed one of the poorest performances of the season, a 7-3 loss away to Manchester Storm on Saturday, with one of their finest results of the campaign, a thumping 9-5 home win over title challengers Belfast Giants on Sunday.
Dutiaume slammed the Manchester performance as ‘amateurish’ and ‘unprepared’, and admitted that it had taken the shine off the Belfast victory.
“Saturday night was probably the lowest point of the season,” he said.
“We’re in mid-Februrary, play-offs are six weeks away, and we’re capable of stinking a joint out like that.
“I was very displeased and that really put a downer on the entire weekend for me, regardless of the outcome on Sunday.
“I’m happy to take the heat – when it’s deserved. But we didn’t change the lines. We didn’t change the systems. It’s a choice and that’s what’s frustrating.
“It’s just consistency, hard work, grit and determination. You won’t win every game but good things happen.”
Flyers erratic form, which has seen them claim a higher percentage of points against Erhardt Conference sides than Gardiner Conference sides, has raised questions about whether the team is more motivated for some games than others.
Dutiaume replied: “Just because you don’t win doesn’t mean you’re not motivated, but it’s about finding a level of professional consistency that sees you out.
“Some games I’ll go into the room and say you deserved more out of that. But against Manchester on Saturday, we deserved fully what we got.
“For whatever reason, we have matched up better against the other conference.
“Whether it’s because you need to be prepared to do everything or get blown out, or whether we get more up for them, I can’t put my finger on it.
“But there’s no question, we’ve exceeded expectations against teams in that conference, and we’ve severely under achieved in our own conference.”
Flyers will need to find their form in their own division as they face a triple-header of Gardiner Conference fixtures this weekend, starting with a trip to Braehaed Arena on Friday night to face a Clan side who have won the last seven head-to-head meetings.
The Kirkcaldy men then follow up with Dundee Stars home and away on Saturday and Sunday.
With Flyers 12 points adrift in the conference race, and only 16 points left to play for, even a long-awaited victory on Friday may not be enough to prevent Clan lifting their third successive championship. Another defeat, however, and it’s all over.
“As a coach you never want to say you’re throwing in the towel, but I feel we signalled our intent in Manchester on Saturday night,” he said.
With the conference title slipping away, Flyers main focus now is on finishing as high as possible in the overall Elite League standings, with fourth place still a realistic target.
“Finishing fourth in this league - this would be an accomplishment,” Dutiaume said.
“Especially for a club that is not considered part of the clique, and that is looked down upon by the league at times.
“The danger you get is guys taking their foot off the gas when they secure play-offs, but we want them to build over the next six weeks, and it’s about peaking at right time.
“You do that by playing hard-nosed, consistent hockey so when you come off the ice, win or lose, you can look yourself in the mirror after game and say you played well. I will be the first to defend that. That’s how you have to build up towards these closing weeks for play-offs.”
The injury that kept Bryan Cameron out of the weekend fixtures continues to be monitored this week but Dutiaume admitted he is unlikely to be available for selection.