Flyers put six past Caps in feisty derby
Fife Flyers 6 Edinburgh Capitals 1
Fife Flyers bounced back from their midweek Challenge Cup hammering in Belfast with a relatively convincing win over Edinburgh Capitals in a feisty Forth derby.
Unlike the recent 10-1 victory in Kirkcaldy, this match was more competitive than the final outcome would suggest, with Caps actually out-shooting the hosts, who relied on netminder Andy Iles to prevent the scoreline ever getting too close for comfort.
The game was also played with an edge that these derbies have lacked in recent times, with three separate fights giving the crowd plenty to shout about, and Thomas Muir earning man of the match after going toe-to-toe with the biggest man of the ice, Caps' giant D-man Nikita Kolesnikovs.
The hosts were without Carlo Finucci, suspended by DOPs, while Shayne Stockton missed out through injury. To compensate, Flyers handed a debut to ex-Sheffield Steeler Brady Ramsay, who featured on the third line along with James Isaacs and a rotation of Sean Beattie and Chad Smith.
Fife made the ideal start with the opening goal after just 3.04. A lack of pressure on Danick Gauthier allowed him to look up and pick the perfect pass to Chase Schaber, skating at pace towards the back post, and he turned the puck home.
The defining moment of the first period arrived in the 16th minute when Iles made a superb save at one end - leaping across a gaping net in a style reminiscent of his stunning stop in the Hogmanay win in Murrayfield - and Fife broke straight to the other end and doubled their lead, Evan Bloodoff netting on a rebound.
The game at this stage was far from beyond Caps, who were well in the game, but when Kalesnikovs took a 2+2 penalty early in period three, it gave Fife a four-minute powerplay, which they eventually made count with just seconds left.
Perhaps thinking they had too much time, Flyers had shown a lack of urgency throughout the PP, but they finally worked a decent shooting position for Ian Young to find the back of the net for his 10th goal of the season just before Caps returned to full strength.
At 3-0 Flyers were now comfortable, and the rink was quiet, but the game took an unexpected turn when Igor Valeyev slammed Russ Moyer into the boards with a dangerous check from behind, prompting an irate James Isaacs to drop the gloves, and suddenly the temperature changed.
Both penalties cancelled each other out with a 2+10 for Valeyev for the check, a a 2+10 for Isaacs for instigator, and both also receiving five minute majors for fighting.
That proved to be the warm-up act for the main event, as Muir and Kalesnikovs gave each other the nod, before dropping the gloves for a good old-fashioned toe-to-toe centre ice.
In terms of height the fight was a mismatch, with the big Latvian standing considerably taller at 6ft 4 in, but Muir has never been one to shy away from the big guys and he certainly left his mark, with every punch landed getting its own cheer from the crowd.
That fairly livened up the atmosphere in the rink and Flyers extended their lead to 4-0 on 34.33, this time taking advantage straight away with a crisp passing move ending with Liam Heelis turning the puck home from close range. When it clicks, Flyers make the powerplay look easy.
Less than a minute later, Caps got the goal they had threatened all night with the always dangerous Pavel Vorobyev pouncing on a loose puck and finding a way past Iles.
The period ended with Flyers defending a five-on-three PP, which continued into the start of period three, but that did not prevent the home side from adding to their repertoire of short-handed goals this season within 36 seconds of the restart.
Bloodoff led the charge up the ice pad, and although his first attempt on goal was saved, he moved at lightning speed to gather the rebound behind the net before sweeping the puck past Tyler Beskorowany on the wraparound.
At 5-1 the game was now as good as won, but a stunning double save from Iles was required to prevent Caps making inroads.
And the icing on the cake was applied with three minutes left when in trying to intercept a Heelis pass intended for Gautheir, the Caps defence only succeeded in setting up Peter LeBlanc for a close range tap-in for a final score of 6-1.
There was still time left for Fife new boy Ramsay to endear himself to the home crowd by dropping the gloves - and tearing his jersey in the process - with Konstantin Teslyukevich after taking a late hit behind the play.
Flyers head coach Todd Dutiaume admitted afterwards that the score may have been a little flattering.
"I don't think we played particularly well tonight, but good teams find a way to win hockey games when they need to," he said.
"We know Andy had to make a number of key saves, or else that scoreline would have looked different."
He also added, "we need to be better tomorrow", in reference to the team's trip to Coventry Blaze this evening where another two points will only reinforce the perception that Fife are genuine EIHL title contenders.