Flyers edge Giants in seven-goal thriller

Nic Rioux (right) celebrates his goal against Belfast with TJ Caig. Pic: Steve Gunn
Nic Rioux (right) celebrates his goal against Belfast with TJ Caig. Pic: Steve Gunn

Fife Flyers 4 Belfast Giants 3

Fife Flyers bounced back from Friday night’s narrow defeat in Braehead with a thrilling 4-3 victory over Belfast Giants at Fife Ice Arena last night.

The key individuals in a good team victory were netminder David Brown, who stonewalled a Belfast side that outshot the hosts 35-21, and Nico Sacchetti, who had a big hand in all four Flyers goals with stats of 2+2.

Sacchetti is now the number one points per game forward in the Elite League, with seven goals and 15 assists in his 15 appearances for Flyers so far - a signing coup if ever there was one.

Flyers head coach Todd Dutiaume felt that this was an overdue win over an Erhardt Conference side after a number of recent narrow defeats.

“We’ve been involved in good hockey games, and bunch of these games we’ve lost by a goal, or an empty netter,” he said.

“It’s about time something went these guys way.

“We were hemmed in our zone at times - that’s as busy as we’ve been in our zone - but that happens.

“We probably didn’t have as much sustained pressure but we had a lot of chances.

“Guys are playing with more confidence.”

Three of Flyers four goals came on the powerplay, and Dutiaume was irked by some booing from the home support during one of the team’s powerplays..

“We have the third best powerplay in the league at home, so I’m astounded when we’re getting booed,” he said.

“We’re at 26 per cent at home - any coach in any league would take that.

“Clearly people don’t realise how good the stats are.

“Some of these teams have an incredible penalty kill forecheck.

“Belfast are third best penalty killers in the league, so of course we get hemmed in sometimes.

“But we go and score three goals against that, which is testament to these guys.”

You can often tell a lot about a Flyers performance from the first few minutes, and they started at a high tempo, drawing first blood on 2.17.

The goal was well-crafted as Sacchetti’s pass found both TJ Caig and Justin Fox driving the net, with the latter providing the final touch to take the puck past Stephen Murphy.

Giants strong response saw them pin Flyers into their own zone for long spells and one particular shift where Flyers simply couldn’t get the puck out eventually led to James Desmarais firing home the equaliser on 9.03.

Belfast pressure was relieved when Daryl Lloyd slashed Fox behind the play to sit out two minutes, giving Flyers their second powerplay of the night.

The home crowd became restless as Flyers struggled to set up a play, but the jeers quickly turned to cheers as Sacchetti drove behind the net and dropped a pass back into the slot to the inrushing Nic Rioux who lashed a fierce first time slapshot past a frozen Murphy - a dream strike.

Giants started period two on the attack but were frustrated by Brown who made a huge double save, first denying Desmarais then performing a break dance move to somehow keep out Craig Peacock’s rebound.

Brown continued the heroics as Belfast kept up the pressure but he was eventually beaten on 28.42 when Flyers were dragged out of position in defence leaving Colin Shields with enough time to pick his spot.

A Flyers performance of peaks and troughs peaked again with a good spell of pressure seeing Murphy save brilliantly from a Shayne Stockton tip while Stephen Gunn went agonisingly close with a rebound.

But Giants would take a 3-2 lead into the third period thanks to Jonathan Boxill, who pounced on a rebound to poke the puck over the line on 33.16.

The Northern Irish club had dominated much of the second period and the question during the second intermission was whether Flyers had anything in response.

They came up with the answers in a third period full of spirit and energy.

There was controversy surrounding Flyers powerplay equaliser on 47.35 as Sacchetti’s shot hit metalwork and bounced back into play, but the goal judge rang the red light, while a well-placed referee Rab Cowan also immediately signalled for a goal.

Giants complained furiously that the puck hadn’t crossed the line, and defenceman Mitch Ganzak picked up a 10 minute misconduct for hammering his stick against the plexi where the goal judge sat.

With Belfast feeling a sense of injustice - and Flyers picking up the scent of a big win - the game got quite feisty with big hits being dished out, while Stockton and Raja both sitting out after a scuffle near the bench.

Flyers struck the decisive blow on 52.22 when Desmarais was handed two minutes for slashing and Sacchetti, who looked dangerous all night, fired a fizzing slapshot past Murphy for 4-3.

Giants put Flyers under intense pressure during the closing minutes, especially during a six on four powerplay when Murphy was withdrawn for an extra skater, but Flyers killers were imperious, back-stopped superbly by Brown.

Flyers will be hoping to carry the momentum into tonight’s match against Braehead Clan at Fife Ice Arena, which starts at 6.30 p.m.