Flyers fail to weather the Storm

Matt Paton fires home Manchester's second goal. Pic: Steve Gunn
Matt Paton fires home Manchester's second goal. Pic: Steve Gunn

Fife Flyers 1 Manchester Storm 3

Question marks are again hovering over Fife Flyers after they were out-classed on home ice last night by a Manchester Storm side with one of the poorest away records in the Elite League.

Storm had managed only one away win prior to the trip to Fife Ice Arena - conceding an average of 4.6 goals per game on the road - but they were well worth the two points in Kirkcaldy.

These are games Flyers should be winning to have any hope of challenging for the conference, but the team competing in its first EIHL season were simply better on the night.

Fife head coach Todd Dutiaume bemoaned his team’s lack of spark and, again, suggested that he could look to freshen up the roster if the season continues to stutter.

“We’re just missing that little bit of a spark,” he said.

“Short-term we have to make sure these guys realise the importance of a league campaign, and consistency.

“Long-term, maybe we need a little bit of a shake up.”

A minute’s silence was held before face-off following the attacks in Paris, and there was a subdued atmopshere in the rink as the game started.

Despite taking the lead, Flyers performance never got out of first gear.

There were misplaced passes and turnovers aplenty in the first period as Flyers struggled against Storm’s speed and movement, and only a fantastic glove save from David Brown prevented Luke Salazar from putting the visitors in front.

Flyers opened the scoring, against the run of play, on 12.27 as Paddy Cullen controlled a pass at the back post, and lifted the back over the shoulder of Zane Kalemba at his near post.

The goal seemed to give Flyers some life and, helped by a couple of powerplays, they finished the first period in the ascendency.

However, the sloppiness returned in period two and just 30 seconds after Brown made one of the saves of the season, somehow saving with his stick when a goal seemed certain, Storm grabbed the equaliser.

In a near identical finish to Flyers opener, Ricardo Birzinsh was left unmarked to fire high past Brown at his near post on 27.16.

Flyers tried to respond quickly but were hit with a lightning counter attack on 28.58, Matt Paton finishing off Grant Toulmin’s pass from the wing after home defenceman were caught wrong side of the puck.

The hosts came agonisingly close to an equaliser when Matt Delahey rattled the inside of the post when it looked easier to score.

It was telling that a defenceman had Flyers best chance of the second period - the team’s key forwards were failing to impose themselves on the game.

A suicide pass from TJ Caig straight onto the stick of Matt Caria at the start of the third was lucky to go unpunished as the Storm forward fired against the crossbar.

But Flyers were punished for more poor play in their own zone on 50.40 as they lost possession, then were caught puck-watching as Caria was left all alone at the crease to tap a pass from the boards past an unprotected Brown.

With just under 10 minutes left the game was still recoverable but Flyers had no answers, only putting sustained pressure on the Storm defence in the closing seconds when Brown was withdrawn for an extra skater.

In a season where Flyers are expecting to challenge for the conference, half-hearted performances such as this simply won’t cut the mustard.

Only a significant improvement will prevent Edinburgh Capitals from claiming a seventh straight home victory tonight.