Fife Flyers’ season ended with defeat and elimination from the play-offs tonight.
They were chasing a 4-2 deficit as Belfast Giants came to town, but hopes of a thrilling comeback were snuffed out as the Irish side skated to a solid 4-1 result for an aggregate 8-3 win.
The noise which erupted from the start of the game drifted slowly away as Fife worked hard, but couldn’t get the jump on a tough, well organised team with more depth, and with a specialist powerplay team which delivered three killer goals.
In short, Fife went as far as they could with the resources they had.
A place in the finals weekend at Nottingham hinged heavily on an early strike to make this a one-goal game, and Fife buzzed from the moment the puck dropped, but the stats for the opening period showed just one goal, and it came for Belfast.
Of more concern were the shots on goal – just five apiece on Giants in periods one and two. Netminder Stephen Murphy really wasn’t tested.
The loss of key defenceman Russ Moyer with a dislocated shoulder in the opening period simply stretched Fife’s bench further.
Hopes had been high of a thrilling finale to the season, and the noisy crowd – a disappointing 2100 given what was at stake, to be honest – was in full flight from the start, keying in on former Fife defenceman Matt Nickerson as he flexed a few muscles by sticking Matt Sisca on his backside and then giving him a death stare.
As Flyers’ players happily checked the big man to add to the panto-style booing, it was inevitable it’d all backfire as Nickerson grabbed the opening goal.
He simply stood his ground at the back post, and was given at least two chances at the puck before forcing it over the goal line.
He deservedly savoured the moment.
Nickerson’s goal after 11 minutes sucked much of the fire from the crowd, and while Fife kept motoring, they needed a quick response to eat into a now three-goal aggregate deficit.
Chase Schaber tested Murphy with a neat wrist shot, but Fife got little out of Belfast’s defence until Ryan Dingle finally delivered in 28 minutes as a bounce off the back boards saw Nickerson and Fox scramble to react, it fell kindly for the skipper, and he flicked home.
Giants responded with a key powerplay goal at 35:55 – the zone opened up, and Blair Riley had all the space he needed to one-time home from wide on the left.
Schaber then danced through the defence from the blue line and, as he went from goal, his stick was chopped into two with a slash, but no call came., Leaving Fox to bellow in anger at the officials.
Within minutes Chris Higgins made it 3-1 on the powerplay to leave Fife heading for the exit just before the second break.
Giants closed the game out in the third, with Riley converting again on the powerplay for 4-1 four minutes after the restart.
And a team as good as Belfast simply doesn’t cough up leads of that magnitude.
In the end they skated to an aggregate 8-3 win.
Flyers’ fans could only stay back and salute their players one final time, including a warm minute’s applause for Ric Jackman as he played his final game in a 20-year pro career which took him all the way to lifting the Stanley Cup.