Flyers earn hard-fought win over determined Storm

Mike Cazzola celebrates after scoring what proved to the winner against Manchester Storm. Pic: Steve Gunn
Mike Cazzola celebrates after scoring what proved to the winner against Manchester Storm. Pic: Steve Gunn

Fife Flyers 3 Manchester Storm 2

The longer Fife Flyers remain in the EIHL title race, the more they will become a scalp for rival clubs.

That was evident at Fife Ice Arena last night as a highly-motivated Manchester Storm arrived eager to knock the Fifers from their perch.

The visitors threw everything they had at the home side, playing close to the edge at times, in an attempt to take something from the game.

But as Todd Dutiaume himself stated this week, Flyers are formidable opponents, and they absorbed whatever Storm threw at them, even recovering from the loss of a goal inside 12 seconds, to take maximum points and stay on the heels of league leaders Belfast Giants.

In Marcus Basara the home side had a player relishing the opportunity to come against the team that deemed him surplus to requirements last month.

He was targeted throughout the night, and he stood up to the attention particularly well, even revelling it as he drew a number of penalties, earning a man of the match award that may enhance his chances of landing a full-time contract with the Kirkcaldy club.

Fife were made to work hard for their win, with every player making a valuable contribution. Bari McKenzie was a stand-out, capping a particularly impressive display with a goal, while Rick Pinkston was the pick of hard-working defence.

Flyers were guilty of switching off from the opening puck drop as Dane Byers was left unchallenged to collect his own rebound from the side-netting before scoring on the wraparound.

They had effectively handed Storm a goal head start, but there was no panic from Fife, and they drew level in the sixth minute with McKenzie finishing off a magical assist from Danick Gauthier, who sold a dummy to a defenceman before supplying the perfect drop pass.

Flyers took a 2-1 lead into the first break thanks to Evan Bloodoff's powerplay goal, finding the top shelf from close range, with Basara earning a pat on the back from assistant coach Jeff Hutchins for drawing back-to-back penalties from Harrison Ruopp and Byers, the latter collecting a 2+10 for boarding which left Basara needing treatment.

Flyers passed up a 5 on 3 chance early in the second period, which seemed to affect their concentration, and Storm drew level on the powerplay on 24.52, with Shane Bakker batting his own rebound over the line.

A couple of debatable penalties put Flyers back on the penalty kill - which helped the team to regain focus - and just seconds after recovering full strength, Evan Bloodoff showed great tenacity to pinch the puck and put it on a plate for Mike Cazzola to snipe home from close range.

There was just under half an hour left, and while there would be no further goals, there was no shortage of trying from both sides.

Flyers pushed hard for a killer fourth, but Storm netminder Matt Ginn made some key stops, while Storm upped the pressure in the closing minutes, withdrawing Ginn for an extra skater, as Flyers frantically held on for the victory that a solid team performance deserved.