Flyers make wrong choices in defeat to Stars
Fife Flyers 5 Dundee Stars 7
All season long, this Fife Flyers team has picked which games to turn up for.
Victories over teams at the top followed by defeats against teams at the bottom have resulted in an inconsistent campaign.
Last night was another prime example as Flyers lost seven goals at home to Dundee Stars, just a week after one of their best displays of the season in a 3-1 win over Braehead Clan.
While the Dundee side had more at stake - they needed the points to book their play-off place while Flyers already had a ticket - there is no such thing as a dead rubber match just one week before play-offs.
The frustration of head coach Todd Dutiaume was written all over his post-match interview.
"Everything is a choice," he said.
"It's a choice not to back check. It's a choice to sulk on the bench and break your stick because you're not getting a goal.
"Unfortunately, we don't make the right choices enough.
"When you play for 11 minutes you're not going to win a hockey game.
"To give up seven goals at home is embarrassing."
The differing appetite of the two teams was evident throughout the opening two periods as Stars opened up a comfortable 5-2 lead.
Flyers raised their game early in the third to reduce the deficit to one, but the visitors' superior competitiveness gave them the edge as they closed the game out in the latter stages.
Stars took the lead on 1.40 when Justin Faryna was able to convert a chance at the second attempt, despite mis-controlling the puck in the goalmouth.
The opening appeared to be gone as he chased the puck wide but, under little pressure, he still managed to force it past Shane Owen at his near post.
Flyers equalised through their star performer in recent weeks as Chase Schaber started and finished a move, sending a sweet wrist finish into the top corner on 3.37.
However, Stars were back in front on 7.14. Flyers were just too slow to retreat after an attack broke down and Felix-Antione Poulin was one of three Dundee players rushing onto a rebound as he fired into the net.
The most obvious indication of Flyers lack of focus came in the closing moments of the first period. With five seconds left on the clock the team simply stopped. Dundee continued to the whistle and Poulin rattled the underside of the bar.
If that was a wake-up call then Fife failed to heed it as they allowed the game to drift away from them in P2.
They did manage to level the match at 2-2 on 21.09 as Chris wands slapshot forced a save, and Carlo Finucci swept home the rebound.
That proved to be a false dawn as Stars scored three unanswered goals to open up a 5-2 lead.
On 25.26, Joey Sides showed great hands in front of the net to beat Owen after Flyers had lost a puck battle in the corner.
Dundee's fourth arrived on 32.41 as Dundee broke on an outnumbered defence and the impressive Poulin fired home his second of the night.
Flyers were handed the game's first powerplay in the 34th minute as Russ Moyer was slashed off the puck by Sides.
But after failing to make it count, Flyers again left themselves wide open as Dundee returned to full strength and when Owen dropped the puck in the crease, Scott Brannon stabbed it over the line.
Flyers were only played in spurts - and they produced their longest burst of activity in the early exchanges of period three.
Matt Sisca offered the team a glimmer of hope on 41.04 when quick hands created space for a shot that flew over Joe Fallon's shoulder and rippled the back of the net.
Five minutes later, Ryan Dingle got a touch on a Wands slapshot to reduce the deficit to one.
But sloppiness in defence slammed the door on any comeback as Owen spilled an easy save back into play, and Cale Tanaka was the only player to react as he forced the rebound across the line.
The game was drifting towards a Stars victory when Flyers got a goal out of nothing as Wands slapshot found a way through traffic on 58.59.
That allowed Flyers the chance to withdraw Owen for a possible 6 on 5 equaliser, but that would have been harsh on Dundee, who sealed a deserved victory by clearing the puck for Faryna to score a simple empty netter.
Flyers face Dundee again tonight in the final league game of the season. With both teams now safely into play-offs, there is no excuse for Fife to be any less motivated than the hosts.