Cardiff Devils came to town as league leaders and with their eyes on title and found their match in Fife Flyers. The result, and the performance, from Todd Dutiaume’s team was simply fantastic.
And this was no one-off where they raised their game. Flyers are already in a groove that has made them THE team no-one wants to encounter come play-off time.
Six home wins in a row, 10 in the last 13, and all underpinned by performances in which you can see all the individual components clicking into place - and when that happens, hockey clubs become
This was a smashing game which flowed pretty much all night long, and, shift after shift, you couldn’t spot which team was sixth placed and which was shooting for the title.
Devils were minus some key players but they still skated with huge intent - they’re fast and direct and are capable of punishing the smallest of mistakes. But so are Flyers.
Devils have a game-winning netminder in Ben Bowns, but David Brown has stepped up to the plate too - he’s a goalie ‘in the zone’ right now, commanding his defence and getting their total backing every time they stepped on the ice.
As a unit they’ve locked down their own zone - pucks which once bobbled past them are being swept up with a calm authority, and teams turned round every other shift.
And, going forward, Fife ooze confidence - when they snap on to a lead they hold it with a calm authority. The gap may be small - this was a one-goal hockey game until the final 36 seconds - but there was no doubt Fife’s focus meant the points were staying in Kirkcaldy, and Justin Fox’s empty netter summed it up.
Another break out from defence, and he scuttled away, he slipped and was tripped, but simply kept going to allow him to usher the puck into the net vacated by Bowns for a game-sealing 3-1 scoreline.
The go-ahead goal at 47:01 was even better. Once again Fife stood firm on their own blue line, Devils ran out of options, and Ryan Dingle hared down the ice pad.
One on one with Bowns, he went back hand and top shelf as trailing defenceman Josh Batch slid helplessly into the net. You won’t see a sweeter finish all season.
Moments like that change games and ignite ice rinks. The 1700 fans - a smashing crowd for a Thursday night - celebrated with a wall of noise, and savoured every shift of the night.
The opening period was goal-less but huge enjoyable. Devils certainly had moments of superiority, but it took them until 25 minutes to break the deadlock - a slick movement saw the puck thrown right to left to open up Fife’s D, and Ryan Russell shot home.
Flyers responded with equal aplomb. Nico Sachetti’s superb mid-ice steal turned the play round, and while his shot was blocked, Fox slammed home the rebound.
periods two and three? They went to Flyers - towards the end you could sense Devils were running out of options and perhaps knew this was not their night, but they remained a dangerous team throughout; one that had to be carefully monitored every time the puck dropped.
Flyers carved out some delicious chances too. Bown’s stoned them more than once, while the look of disbelief on Michael Dorr’s face as he missed at the back post in the 35th minute said it all - a gilt-edged opportunity to grab a lead.
Three minutes later Flyers entire line buzzed around Bowns as the puck ricocheted everywhere. It stayed out that time, but the goal came seven minutes into the final period and you sensed then that Fife were heading for a big, big win.
Devils tried to push for a late reply with but five minutes remaining Joey Haddad made a dumb cross-check to the back of Delahey’s head after the puck had been played. It was a tired penalty, and he knew it as he headed to the sin bin.
Fife wound down two minutes of play, leaving Devils with little option but to pull Bowns with 1:50 to play.
Flyers ‘ defence snuffed out every opportunity for the six skaters coming at them, and when they pushed the puck out of the zone, Fox duly delivered.
Todd Dutiaume, head coach, was thrilled by both the result and the performance.
‘‘That was a big win for the league points, but also mentally - it showed we can compete with every team in this league,’’ he said. ‘‘I think we were on our heels a bit in the first period, but periods two and three were ours.
‘‘We didn’t squeak that game out. We won the hockey game - it’s up there with the best results from this season.’’