Fife Flyers 2 Braehead Clan 0
A hard-fought Sunday night home win over Braehead Clan, and a shut-out for a much-improved David Brown, completed an uplifting four-point weekend for Fife Flyers.
The pressure of a six-game losing streak was released in a 4-3 victory in Manchester on Saturday, but the solid performance in the 2-0 win over Clan should go a long way towards restoring some confidence and optimism.
Flyers worked hard for their first win over their Glasgow rivals in almost a full calendar year, ending a sequence of eight Clan victories in a row stretching back to November last year.
This victory was built from the back, starting from netminder Brown producing a more composed performance, behind a team that, as a unit, had their best defensive display of the season so far. It was a back to basics, needs-must performance - but it was effective.
Head coach Todd Dutiaume has felt the heat from fans recently but he insisted the players should be given the credit for turning things around.
“I’m neither high nor low - I’m not even concerned about myself,” he said.
“I’m just really happy for the boys to grab a four point weekend.
“There wasn’t many changes - we just challenged them to be better and on point for 60 minutes.
“Winning hockey games isn’t always pretty and they proved that.
“They just kept it simple, and did smart, very unselfish plays.”
Key to Flyers victory on Sunday was the contribution of the local Brits, with Josh Scoon receiving particular praise from Dutiaume after stepping in to take the place of injured import forward Michael Dorr. Stephen Gunn and Tommy Muir were also singled out.
“It was probably one of the best games that we’ve seen Scoony play in a Flyers jersey,” Dutiaume said. “He was just solid all night against good competition - and Gunny as well. For the last four or five weeks Tommy has been exceptional back there as well.”
The first 20 minutes on Sunday was arguably the tamest period of hockey between these two rivals in the EIHL.
There was plenty endeavour but no big hits, no penalties, no goals and very few SOGs meant that there was precious little for a flat crowd to get excited about.
Without the Nickerson, Frank and Fitzgerald sideshow this rivalry has lost some of its intensity.
Things heated up slightly in period two as Flyers started to take the game to Clan, but a tendency to try and walk the puck into the net, with the final pass often being cut-out when a shot was on, kept the scoreboard blank.
However, it took a miraculous save from Chris Holt to prevent Justin Fox from giving the hosts the lead. The net seemed wide open for the Flyers forward but Holt’s glove appeared from nowhere to make a stunning catch.
The Clan netminder will struggle to make a better save all season.
At the other end, Braehead found it tough to create chances against a packed Flyers defence, well protected by the back-tracking forwards, some of whom must have spent more time in their own end than in the attacking zone in a selfless display.
The D-men made countless key blocks, but when shots did breach the front line, Brown was reliable.
Flyers needed to find a way to turn a tight, well-organised performance into two points and they finally made a breakthrough with eight minutes left of the third period.
After taking TJ Caig’s perfectly timed pass in his stride, Ryan Dingle went for the near post from a tight angle and got his reward as the puck bounced in off Holt.
Clan looked for a way back into the game but Flyers defence - as it had been all night - was in no mood to give an inch and when Holt was withdrawn for an extra skater in the final minute, Shayne Stockton broke free to grab the empty-net clincher.
Back-to-back wins won’t erase all doubts about this Fife team - you don’t become a good team (or a bad one for that matter) over the course of a single weekend - but it has restored some faith and given the side a platform to build from.