Flyers snatch victory from jaws of defeat in curtain-raiser

Evan Stoflet celebrates with Rick Pinkston after putting Flyers 2-0 up. Pic: Steve Gunn
Evan Stoflet celebrates with Rick Pinkston after putting Flyers 2-0 up. Pic: Steve Gunn

Fife Flyers 5 Braehead Clan 4 (PS)

Fife Flyers opened their 2018/19 season with a win over arch-rivals Glasgow Clan on Saturday evening, but this encounter was certainly not your average hockey game…

It was thrills, spills and drama all the way at the Fife Ice Arena as the packed barn were treated to an absolute cracker.

Fife boss Todd Dutiaume said on what was an electric night at the rink: “It certainly had a few ups and downs tonight.

“Our first period was fantastic, and the players knew this building was going to be packed and I certainly think they were eager to please.

“The second period, credit to Glasgow, they had a pushback, and it was a decent pushback”.

Dutes also felt that the final period showed that Flyers still have a lot to learn.

“We felt that we were more than happy to engage in up and down hockey, and that put us in a position we really didn’t need to be in," he reflected.

"It’s definitely going to be a tough season once again."

Flyers started this game on the front foot, and soon had their first powerplay opportunity when Clan forward Josh Gratton was penalised for a slash on just 19 seconds, and it was

soon a 5-on-3 advantage to the hosts when visiting goalie Joel Rumpel cleared the puck into the stands for a delay of the game minor.

The opening goal soon followed, as Evan Bloodoff was on hand to fire home from close range following a pinpoint pass from Evan Stoflet on 1.21.

The home side doubled their advantage on 6.58 when Stoflet wristed into the top corner from Danick Gauthier's neat pass, with the visitors visibly rattled even at this early stage.

Flyers almost added a third goal short-handed when Bloodoff's excellent backhand pass was fired by Mike Cazzolla at point-blank range, but Rumpel got just enough on the puck to send

it just wide of the net.

The middle stanza saw the visitors grow into this game and Zack Fitzgerald found himself one-on-one with Shane Owen, but the returning netminder denied the Clan skipper with a

smart pad save.

Cazzolla then broke clear on the short-hand but the former Edinburgh forward blasted wide of the target.

Things began to heat up when Gauthier was given 2 minutes for hooking, but was assessed a further 2 minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct by referee Andy Dalton after protesting a little too keenly.

Gauthier was then joined in the box by Stoflet after a roughing minor to give Clan a 5-on-3 opportunity.

Clan had their first spell of sustained pressure on the Flyers net during this powerplay, with Matt Stanisz hitting the post after a stramash in the Flyers crease.

The third period saw both sides give possession away cheaply, but the visitors got themselves off the mark when Josh Gratton's slapshot found the back of the net at 47.19.

Astonishingly, it was 2-2 less than a minute later when some indecision in the Flyers defence allowed Vaclav Stupka to snipe home the equaliser at 47.57.

Clan then had Fife firmly camped in their own zone, but a slashing call on Stanisz, led to Fife regaining the lead when Bloodoff poked home his second of the game at 51.48.

The away side levelled again when Travis Ehrhardts shot through traffic crept into Owen’s net on 55.15, before Clan took the lead for the first time in the game as Connolly tucked his

backhand shot into the corner of the Flyers net on 58.47.

With the clock running down, Flyers pulled netminder Owen, and the gamble paid off for the home side, when Bloodoff got his hat-trick goal after another scramble in the crease to send

the home support into a frenzy.

With sudden-death overtime unable to separate the sides, the game went to penalty shots. Craig Peacock, Matt Beca, Mike Cazzolla, Brendan Connolly and Chase Schaber all missed

their opportunities, while Paul Crowder and Scott Tanski both converted.

Into sudden-death penalty shots, Cazzolla and Ehrhardt failed to convert before Crowder scored his second penalty shot of the evening.

Connolly had to score for Clan, and his shot came back off the underside of the crossbar.

The official immediately declared that his attempt hadn’t crossed the line, and after furious protests from the visitors, the shot was reviewed but was still ruled out by the officials.

Bloodoff was deservedly voted as Flyers man of the match for his hat-trick in what was an excellent performance from the fan favourite.

A good start to the season from Fife, but the tough games keep coming when they entertain Belfast Giants this evening.