Flyers told to step it up off the puck

Danny Stewart - Dundee Stars v Fife Flyers - February 8, 2015. Pic: Steve Gunn
Danny Stewart - Dundee Stars v Fife Flyers - February 8, 2015. Pic: Steve Gunn

Fife Flyers must improve without the puck if they are to be serious play-off challengers, according to Danny Stewart.

The associate player-coach has blamed Flyers’ patchy and inconsistent form on their efforts when not in possession.

And after failing to find the net in Sunday’s 3-0 away defeat to Dundee Stars, he insisted that a defence-first approach can be Flyers’ best form of attack.

“Production is one thing, but a lot of our problems this year has been our play off the puck,” Stewart explained

“We’ve struggled in our zone, and that’s not just our defence, but our forwards as well not being committed to the back check and not being committed to defence first.

“You see teams who play tough defensively getting more opportunities going forward because they frustrate the opposition and then they start pushing.

“That’s exactly what happened to us this weekend - we fell behind and all of a sudden we started pushing the game and started making mistakes.

“We just need to clean those up and start being more accountable defensively.”

Stewart was frustrated with Flyers’ zero point weekend against the Elite League’s bottom two clubs following recent impressive wins over Belfast, Cardiff and Hull.

“We had some good form going in, but it just shows you how competitive this league is,” he said.

“Reflecting on the weekend, those were two teams fighting for their play-off lives and we didn’t up our game.

“We’ve been clear to these guys - at this time of year games the intensity is elevated because everyone is jockeying for position.

“Guys have got to step their game up as individuals and as a group.

“Hopefully the guys learned form it and we’ll have a good week of training on and off the ice this week and get ready for next weekend.”

Stewart revealed that Flyers are considering some line changes for the weekend but ruled himself out of stepping up from the third line.

“My style of game and where I’m at in my career right now I think the third line is where I should be,” he said.

“As a third line our job is to be dependable defensively, create some energy for the team, and hopefully chip in with a goal here or there to take pressure off top two lines.

“We’d like to score more than we have - but we have six pretty skilled forwards that I feel, if they were on the third line, we’d be wasting their skill a little bit.

“It’s just not their style of game on the third line. In saying that, from game to game, if someone is having an off night, maybe I’ll jump up there for a shift or two, or even Stephen Gunn or Jamie Wilson or whoever is having a good night.

“Our six forwards are good skilled players and they deserve to be on the top two lines but need to start seeing some more consistency out of them.”

Flyers will have a chance for swift revenge on Dundee Stars, who visit Fife Ice Arena on Saturday, before Flyers travel to Hull looking to make it three away wins in a row over the Stingrays.

Stewart added: “The Dundee rivalry has maybe calmed down a bit this year due to their struggles, and other rivalries getting a bit bigger, but Sunday’s game was a pretty physical affair and it left a bad taste in mouth leaving that rink with nothing.

“We’re at home now and we feel there’s no reason why we shouldn’t pick up two points.

“Hull is never an easy trip and they are a very under-rated hockey team with a lot of skull up front so we have to go down there and play smart road hockey like we have last couple of times.”