Fife Flyers 2 Coventry Blaze 3
Fife Flyers produced a laboured performance last night as they crashed to a 3-2 defeat on home ice to Coventry Blaze.
The Kirkcaldy side failed to find top gear throughout the game, and Blaze took advantage to end a seven-game losing streak.
Coventry had conceded 16 times in two nights the previous weekend, but Fife struggled to break them down, only applying sustained pressure in the closing stages when desperation set in.
Afterwards, forward Josh Scoon, who again featured on the third line, refused to gloss over a poor performance.
"That was a tough one to swallow," he said.
"On the balance of play I don't think we deserved to win. We were a bit lackadaisical at times.
"We can blame the travel last night and make excuses but at the end of the day it wasn't good enough and we got what we deserved."
Perhaps underestimating Blaze was the issue, but if tiredness was a factor after the lengthy returned journey to Belfast the previous day, where Flyers lost 6-4, then it should be a concern that their busy fixture schedule already appears to be catching up with them, and they aren't even in the thick of it yet.
With Russ Moyer injured, Brady Ramsay back home and Evan Bloodoff now a doubt after tweaking an ankle last night, there is a danger that a season which still promises so much could crumble away unless player fatigue is addressed.
The damage, however, may have been done in the summer when the club agreed to cram 22 games into the final two months of the season.
The defeat saw Flyers drop back down to fifth in the standings, just three points ahead of seventh, and while Todd Dutiaume's men have games in hand on the teams around them, they will need to bring better performances than this to make them count.
Flyers started this game positively enough, with most of the early traffic in the direction of Kevin Nastiuk's goal, but the Blaze opener appeared to take the wind from their sails.
A counter-attack in the eighth-minute saw Flyers out-numbered in defence as Ben Lake gobbled up a rebound on Marc-Olivier Vallerand's effort.
Flyers upped the physicality with Danick Gauthier landing a heavy hit on Lake, before Liam Heelis crashed into Adam Courchaine, who limped down the tunnel and out of the game.
But it had little impact as more sloppy defending allowed Blaze to double their advantage on 16.28 with Lake notching his second rebound, back-handing the puck into the roof of the net with Flyers all at sea in their own zone.
The break allowed Flyers to regroup and they got themselves on the scoreboard on 25.24 thanks to a determined shift that saw Charlie Mosey win the puck in the corner, Chase Schaber dig it out from behind the net and Gauthier slam a one-timer past Nastiuk.
But that level of play was the exception rather than the norm, and Blaze were able to hold onto their 2-1 lead into the second break.
Fife upped the energy levels in the third period and Peter LeBlanc should have scored when presented with a clear sight of an open net, but Nastiuk managed to save despite the goal judge ringing the red light.
Blaze restored their two-goal lead with 10 minutes to play as Brett Robinson turned the puck home at the back post, although Flyers were furious that the goal stood as the nets had come off their moorings, particularly when a similar strike from Schaber in the second period had been washed out for the same reason.
Flyers responded within 40 seconds with Carlo Finucci stealing the puck in the Blaze zone to set up Schaber for a sweet one-timer past Nastiuk to bring the game back to 2-3, with plenty time still left to turn the result around.
Fife went on to dominate the closing stages but were forced to withdraw Andy Iles for an extra skater when the equaliser failed to arrive.
Jim Jorgensen rattled the post in the final minute, but Blaze held on for what head coach Danny Stewart described as an 'ugly win'. It was not undeserved.
Flyers will now look to avoid a weekend whitewash by claiming two points from the trip to rock bottom Edinburgh Capitals this evening.
Maintaining their stronghold at the top of the Gardiner Conference will at least salvage something from the weekend.