Flyers overcome Clan in tense encounter

Fife Flyers 3 Braehead Clan 2 (OT)

Sunday, 7th January 2018, 11:30 am
Updated Sunday, 7th January 2018, 11:38 am
Evan Bloodoff celebrates his overtime winner against Braehead. Pic: Steve Gunn

Taking two points from your biggest rivals while nowhere near your best?

Fife Flyers will take that all day long as they made it four wins from four over Braehead Clan in front of Fife Ice Arena's biggest crowd of the season.

This was a very different game from the beatings handed out to Clan earlier in the campaign.

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A stuffy, scrappy encounter lacked the intensity these two normally serve up, with Flyers unable to reach the free-flowing hockey heights of recent home displays against Guilldford and Manchester.

A performance which lacked urgency at times relied heavily on Clan indiscipline, with three powerplay goals, including two five-on-threes, proving decisive.

But in a fixture where every point can be the difference in the conference title race, Flyers should not overly concern themselves about how this game was won.

They have shown they can play teams off the ice this season, now they have also proven they can win ugly. The rewards are the same.

Head coach Todd Dutiaume said: "The stage was set for the most exciting game of the year, but I've got to give Braehead credit, they set the pace in that first period.

"But the positive is that a good team will find a way to win a hockey game even when maybe not at their best.

"We've been playing some incredible hockey over the last month and a half, and you're not always going to be at your peak.

"By the third period we were much more like ourselves, and we managed to finish the game off."

The teams skated out to a huge 2610 crowd and that seemed to spook the players as a tight and tense opening period littered with fractured plays finished goalless.

The game sparked into life early in period two with Evan Bloodoff's thundering body check earning a two-minute penalty for boarding, plus a two-minute penalty for roughing after being set upon by Clan's Tyler Shattock.

On the resultant powerplay, Clan took the lead with Mike Embach's redirecting a Brendan Brooks shot past Andy Iles on 25.15.

The pendulum swung when Jacob Doty pasted Thomas Muir to the plexi and earned a 2+10 minute misconduct for a check from behind.

Craig Cescon swiftly joined him in the sin bin to put the hosts on a five-on-three powerplay, although Clan were back to four skaters by the time Flyers equalised, with Ian Young's shot deflected into the net by Carlo Finucci on 32.52.

Another powerplay strike put Flyers in front as they took just 11 seconds to take advantage of Christoffer Bjorklund's interference penalty with Evan Bloodoff firing home on 36.35.

Flyers did not show enough vigour to build on their lead in the third period, and by the closing five minutes they were coming under the cosh.

Clan called a time-out with 2.30 left and withdrew netminder Ryan Nie shortly afterwards to go for the extra skater.

It's a move that has worked to Flyers advantage several times this season, but this time the boot was on the other foot as Adam Brace's shot through a crowd found the net for 2-2 with just 64 seconds left of regulation.

The game went to three-on-three overtime, where Flyers have been strong this season, and they almost emphasised this from the first drop of the puck as Bloodoff bulldozed his way through the Clan defence.

Although he was unable to get a clean shot away, he did enough to draw a penalty from Tyler Scofield for holding the stick giving Flyers a four-on-three powerplay.

Then a rash cross-check into the back of Bloodoff by Cescon earned another minor, giving the hosts 48 seconds with two extra men.

And the roof came off the barn on 61.58 when Peter LeBlanc fired the puck on net and Bloodoff got the vital touch to take it over the line for a vital win that keeps the initiative with Fife in the Gardiner Conference race.

Flyers will need a better performance, however, in round two of the double-header in Braehead Arena tonight