Fife Flyers are beginning to emerge as Elite League dark horses after another stunning road win left them with the second best record in the top flight.
A 3-1 victory in Sheffield on Sunday made it five league wins in a row for the Kirkcaldy club, who have also taken full points from Nottingham and Cardiff rinks in recent weeks.
Flyers are seventh in the EIHL table on account of having played fewer games than anyone else, but their win ratio of 70 per cent is second only to league leaders Cardiff, and with games in hand, the team has the potential to get firmly into the mix at the top end of the standings.
The oustanding results have also brought increased expectation levels - with some around the league now even tipping Fife as possible title challengers - but head coach Todd Dutiaume is remaining focused on simply maintaining current form.
“We can’t manage anybody’s expectation but our own,” he said.
“It’s good to see people talking about the club around the league in a positive light, but it’s not going to change our attitude much in here.
“Our hope is to keep the status quo we talk about every week which is go out, enjoy yourselves, play hard, and good things will happen.”
Key to Flyers recent success, Dutiaume reckons, is the team-first mentality within the squad.
Fife’s point-scoring has been spread out to the extent that they only have two players inside the top 30, with Danick Gauthier the highest placed at 18th overall on 26 points.
“We don’t carry any superstars and they don’t have a superstar mentality,” Dutiaume explained.
“They play for the group and their selflessness was summed up by Charlie Mosey skating down on an empty net in Sheffield, which he could have just shot in, but he passed it over to Chase Schaber. Not a lot of guys do that, but good team mates do and it really sums up our hockey club at the moment.”
A key factor in Flyers success has been their special teams with both powerplay and penalty kill ranking among the very best in the EIHL. Dutiaume, however, has asked home fans to show more patience during powerplays after admitting the team finds its easier to score on the road.
“You can get into it as deep as you want but our opponents can watch every single powerplay we’ve had for the entire season, and we can do same for them,” he said. “Unless you change your powerplay every single week and come up with new breakout and new alignments in zone, which is nearly impossible, teams know what you are doing before you’ve even start. It’s just a matter of staying patient and breaking them down.
“You’ll always get bounces and good things happen when you shoot the puck – we know that and we tell our players that – but probably one of reasons why the powerplay is higher on the road than at home is because they don’t have anybody yelling at them to shoot the puck as soon as they get over the red line.
“Fans are entitled to to that, and we encourage them to make a lot of noise and be one of the toughest buildings to come into, but this group definitely doesn’t have as much pressure on the road as they do at home.
“It’s a pressure-cooker out there, and I think they deal with it well, but it’s tough.”
Flyers now face a busy festive schedule, which includes one of the longest trips of the season to Guildford this Saturday, two days before Christmas, although the cancellation of the home fixture against Dundee Stars on Christmas Eve avoided the prospect of a run of four games in five days either side of Christmas Day.
“It’s ridiculous,” Dutiaume said. “Who books games in for Christmas Eve and Boxing Day? That’s outrageous and I’ve never hidden my feelings on that.
“We’re going down to Guildford on the 23rd when we have three others Scottish teams up here who would’ve gladly played us.
“I’m thinking around the Christmas and New Year period you play your local derbies, minimise travel and allow your opponents’ fans to travel to games and fill up these buildings.
“But I’m not the schedule maker so down to Guildford we go – and these guys will be professional, and bring their best, but it’s certainly not ideal.”
Flyers also travel to Dundee Stars tonight (Friday) before welcoming Edinburgh Capitals to Fife Ice Arena on Boxing Day for a 6.00 p.m face-off.