Flyers’ one-goal lead going into ‘Showdown Sunday’ in Dundee

Fife Flyers logo large hi-res
Fife Flyers logo large hi-res

The stage is set for a winner takes all finale in Dundee on Sunday night after Flyers beat Dundee Stars 4-3 in the first leg of the championship mplay-off quarter-finals.

But this 4-3 win should have been in the margin of 5-1, 6-1, maybe even more such was their total, almost mesmerising dominance of Stars for the first 40 minutes.

Once again Fife got sucked into dumb, pointless penalties, and conceded vital momentum to a team they had pinned on the ropes for so long that had this been a boxing match, the ref would have stepped in to save them from any further punishment.

But if there is a hard way to do things then Fife will surely take that road every time.

That’s what has made this play-off run both thrilling and nerve-shredding, but now they cannot ride their luck - they have to deliver their polished, focussed ‘A’ game on Tayside tomorrow.

Do that and they will go to the finals weekend as the dark horses - the role they absolutely revel in.

‘‘We had them on the run,’’ said head coach Todd Dutiaume. You could sense his frustration at the ‘but’ which followed as he spoke of hitting penalty trouble and allowing Stars a route back into the game.

‘‘We got frustrated and it came out wrong - but sometimes you have a eat a bit of garbage from the other team,’’ said. ‘‘It’s hockey ...’’

His task now is to retrain individual minds on the task in hand, and it’s simple - go to Dundee and win. Then Nottingham beckons.

Sunday isn’t the stage for settling for personal scores. It’s isn’t the place for trading niggles and chirping. It’s a night when only a 60-minute game will seal this remarkable run with the prize it deserves - a place at at the finals weekend.

And Flyers know they can do it.

For 40 minutes they played some of their very best hockey and had Stars in utter disarray in front of a 3000-strong crowd that roared itself hoarse.

They won every personal battle because they wanted it more - they claimed every loose puck, bossed ‘em in every corner and had enough shots and chances to crush Jeff Hutchins’ men with an avalanche of goals.

At 4-0 it wasn’t just the ‘game over’ sign that was flickering into life - it was almost game, set and match. And only 32 minutes had been played. In fact, it should have been ...

A hard-working Bobby Chaumont netted twice with Derek Roehl and the outstanding Jordan Fulton also ringing the red light as Dundee could find no way of getting any momentum into their ragged game.

Three penalties between 39:36 and 39:51 - all minors - allowed Stars to grab an opening goal with nine second of the period remaining, Kashirsky finding the net. Just as at Braehead when they coughed a goal in the late seconds to Clan, it was the first sign of a possible shift in momentum.

As the buzzer sounded, Derek Roehl went into Sam McLuskey, grabbing him in a bear hug. The defenceman lashed out, punches were traded and both sat five for fighting - a crazy penalty to take at a crucial time, but, again, one that hinted at the sole character flaw in Flyers’ make-up. Sometimes, just sometimes, they can’t help but chirp away instead of stepping back. If they really want to irritate their opponents, just stick the puck in the net ...

They’d both just returned to the ice as Kyle Haines went for tripping, and Rory Rawlyk sealed his comeback game with a peach of shot from the point for 4-2. Suddenly, out of nowhere, it was game on ..

And when Kashirsky turned the puck home from point blank range for 4-3, again on the powerplay, at 55:37 Fife were suddenly vulnerable, although Stars seemed content to head back over the Tay with a one-goal deficit to make up on home ice.

Flyers didn’t need Luckacevic taking a slashing minor behind the play at 57:57 - they escaped but it put pressure on them when none should have existed - and the end result didn’t feel like a win.

But it was. A huge, vital and deserved win.

What happens on Sunday is now in Flyers’ hands.

Get sucked into tit-for-tat penalties, be wound up by the verbals and niggles - and you can set your watch for them coming every other shift - and this tie, and Nottingham, will trickle through their fingers. A golden opportunity lost forever.

Repeat their performance of the first 40 minutes - at times breath-taking, often thrilling, and delivered with intense focus - and they will win the leg and the tie.

Dutiaume summed it up: ‘‘We have to realise we are 60 minutes from the finals. The team that wants it most will win ...’’

A 4-3 scoreline tonight may have felt slightly anti-climatic given how far ahead Fife were, but a 4-3 scoreline on Sunday night will mean one thing.

Job done. Mission accomplished.

The 75th anniversary season team stands 60 minutes away from becoming bona fide legends. Let them deliver...