Flyers top EIHL standings after thrilling win over Panthers

Fife Flyers 7 Nottingham Panthers 5

Fife Flyers are enjoying the view from the top of the Elite League, for today at least, after a thrilling victory over Nottingham Panthers in Kirkcaldy last night.

This top of the table clash had just about everything in terms of drama and excitement, with both teams inability to defend making for a high-scoring encounter.

There was also melodrama off the ice with Panthers head coach Rich Chernomaz having an almighty tantrum after seeing a goal washed out.

The 55-year-old broke a stick before launching it across the ice in a meltdown that has today earned him a one-match ban from DOPS.

The former NHLer also refused to conduct his post-match media duties, now a league requirement, as Panthers were knocked off their perch at the top of the standings.

Carlo Finucci celebrates his short-handed strike in the 7-5 win over Nottingham Panthers. Pic: Steve Gunn

Carlo Finucci celebrates his short-handed strike in the 7-5 win over Nottingham Panthers. Pic: Steve Gunn

The real story of the night amid the mayhem though was another huge victory for Flyers, who now lead the EIHL having taken 17 points from a possible 18.

It should have been more comfortable for the home side after a scintillating second period that saw them hit four without reply to lead 5-1.

But Panthers brought themselves back to within a goal in a bonkers third period where both defences went into kamikaze mode.

The fact that head coach Todd Dutiaume could still pick faults with his table-toppers shows just how high the bar is currently being set by this Fife side.

"We played well for two periods but let ourselves down in third," he said. "We switched off mentally & physically.

"It’s been a wonderful stretch and that’s down to the players but if we have any aspirations of staying top of table we have to make sure we don’t switch off."

A blow for Flyers amidst the delirium was an injury to Chase Schaber, who pulled out of a chase for the puck and left the ice doubled over in agony.

Dutiaume added: "We’re concerned about him and tests will need done.

"Chase will be first to admit his numbers aren’t where he wants them to be, but he’s integral part of team.

"He’s a guy we built this team around and it’s an incredibly big loss for us."

A bumper crowd of 2256, bolstered by a large travelling contingent from Nottingham, were treated to a classic.

Nottingham enjoyed a dominant opening 10 minutes, but Fife were their own worst enemies as time and again they had the puck but failed to clear their zone.

They were eventually made to pay on 9.57 as Jacob Doty opened the scoring, but that lead lasted just two minutes.

An ugly hit by Alexandre Bolduc on Ricards Birzins landed Panthers' most recent signing a 2-minute penalty for boarding, and Flyers took advantage of the powerplay almost instantly, with Mike Cazzola tapping home from close range.

It was a goal Flyers needed to settle into this match, and they started to show more composure on the puck.

Panthers were having a hard time avoiding the penalty box and Flyers made the most of their opportunities in period two.

A four-on-three powerplay yielded a second goal on 22.52 as Scott Aarssen ripped a beauty of a wrist shot into the top corner.

It was 3-1 on 27.15 as Birzins dumped the puck on net hoping for a touch, only to watch it go straight through the traffic and into the back of Sam Gospel's net.

Gospel sprawled superbly to deny Schaber a tap-in as Flyers threatened to run riot, but the roof came off on 31.03 as Carlo Finucci raced clear to net a short-handed fourth.

It was thereafter that Panthers thought they'd scored, only for the referees to signal 'no goal', after Shane Owen had been illegally taken out of the play.

The end result of Panthers subsequent fury was a five-on-three powerplay for Fife, which duly brought the fifth goal with Paul Crowder pouncing from close range after Gospel lost sight of a rebound off the backboards.

It was at this point Flyers lost Schaber, but the crowd was lifted again during the second intermission as home mascot Geordie Munro had a jig on the away bench while mocking the antics of the away coach.

But the game wasn't yet won, and that became apparent in period three as Panthers hit two quick counters through Tommy Hughes and Luke Pither to make it 5-3.

Flyers called a time-out, which seemed to steady the ship as Flyers went straight on the attack with Danick Gauthier slotting home a sixth.

But again Flyers switched off, allowing the visitors another two quick goals via Mark Hurtubise and Pither, closing to within a single goal at 6-5.

From a position of comfort, Fife were now sweating, but Crowder settled the nerves with a seventh goal on 49.39, firing home at the back post after great work by Gauthier, to complete a crazy 10-minute spell that produced seven goals.

Fortunately for those of us charged with recording the night's events, that was the end of the scoring, as Fife finally resumed defensive responsibilities to see the victory out, prompting a "we are number one" chant from delighted home fans.

Flyers were up at 4.30 am this morning for a trip to reigning champions Cardiff - normally a daunting trip - but this Fife team ought to fear no-one.