Flyers’ sixth straight loss to Braehead

Fife Flyers v Braehead Clan (Pic: Steve Gunn)
Fife Flyers v Braehead Clan (Pic: Steve Gunn)

Welcome to Groundhog Day, Fife Flyers style.

For the sixth meeting in a row they came off second best to their great west coast rivals.

Clan started 2017 as they finished 2016 with Fife tucked deep into their pockets, skating to a comfortable 4-1 win in Kirkcaldy in front of a bumper 2500 crowd.

But this was more than just about bragging rights.

Had Flyers won, they’d have leapfrogged Clan into fifth with games in hand and set up the prospect of a cracking start to the new year.

Instead, they finished with the tanks empty long before the buzzer. They looked beaten and short of ideas throughout the third instead of rallying.

But the fans who packed the rink expected more – they certainly wanted to see them push Clan to the wire regardless of heavy legs.

Flyers looked lively enough in a 1-1 opening period in which Justin Fox netted just before the buzzer to cancel out Mark Hammond’s 12th minute opener.

The main talking point of the opening period was a goal-that-never-was after 14 minutes when a shot from Ric Jackman flew to the net.

The goal judge’s light went on, but referee Alan Craig who was behind the net almost immediately, halted proceedings before ruling it off. He also appeared to dismiss the goal judge who stood down and was replaced.

Would a go-ahead goal have made a diffrence?
It may have altered the momentum, it may have given Fife a platform to build on, but, in truth, the better side still won the hockey game.

Fife competed, but not across the full 60 minutes.

With Ryan Dingle and Brendan Brooks again driving the team forward – the twin engine room was again relied upon too heavily - they had their fair share of the puck and the chances, but the real test came when Clan went 2-1 up at 32:41 with an in-off strike from Matt Beca.

Fife needed a big third period, but they looked as flat as the atmosphere in the rink – the noise dwindling as the home side struggled to get back into the game, their challenge deflating by the shift.

The killer strike was Matt Keith’s goal in 45 minutes. He dragged the puck past two defencemen to the right of the goal, and when no-one closed him down, he simply flicked the puck home.

Clan only needed to run the clock down to tie up the win, and they did.

With 2:16 remaining Fife pulled netminder Shane Owen only to concede the inevitable empty netter to Scott Pitt in the last 30 seconds.

Todd Dutiaume drew positives from the night, and paid tribute to his players, but admitted playing short-benched and through injury took its toll.

‘‘Tonight was a match for fifth place in the league, and that’s where we want to be,’’ he said.’’We have games in hand. We have to stay positive. ‘‘