FIFE Flyers coach Todd Dutiaume has spoken of his frustration after his team followed two derby wins, with two derby defeats.
Flyers ended 2011 with back-to-back victories over close rivals Dundee Stars and Edinburgh Capitals, only to lose to the same teams in the first two fixtures of 2012.
Taking four points from eight has left the Kirkcaldy side with plenty work to do to catch the teams above them and claim the final play-off spot in the Elite League.
Dutiaume, pictured left, told SportsPress: “If we could have taken all the points it would have taken us right up behind Hull, and given us that dangling carrot of that play-off spot.
“But we’ve lost Matt Siddall, we’re missing Matt Cohen, and there are guys playing hurt. We have the backing of the club to run with nine imports, but I’ve never had that full quota all year, which is a bit unbelievable.
“We also lost Willie Nicolson on Monday night, and we’re down to Tim Maxwell and three British defencemen again.
“It seems like we can’t take a step forward without getting knocked back down, but that’s the way this league is.
“There are teams getting injuries and losing guys all over the league, so it’s not excuses, but it’s one of the most frustrating parts of being a coach here.
“We had a good opportunity to build on two wins, but we just didn’t take it.”
With eight points now separating Flyers from eighth-placed Hull Stingrays, Dutiaume admits his team cannot afford many more slip-ups.
“Losing the last two games has made our job a lot more harder,” he said. “Now we have to pick off the top five more than a couple of times to give ourselves a chance of catching Hull.
“The positive thing is we still have Dundee four times and Hull twice – and those points are absolutely crucial.
“Then you look at games like Cardiff at home, and do we have a shot? If we get an import in, and Matt Cohen back, then possibly.
“Our success certainly hinges on those factors.”
Flyers have been without defenceman Cohen since he suffered a concussion against Belfast Giants on December 10.
“Our first concern is Matt’s health - that’s number one for the team, himself and his family,” Dutiaume said.
“Before I would ever put him on the ice, I need to get the all clear from the doctors.
“He’s due to go through some tests this week, and he’ll be deemed 100 per cent before he comes back.”
Despite the last two defeats, Dutiaume is encouraged by the progress his team has made since the start of their debut Elite season.
“I really think the club has turned a corner,” he said. “At the start of the season people were questioning whether they could pay to watch us, whereas now we’re maybe not the best hockey club in the world, but we’ve certainly improved.
“It’s scrappy at times, but it’s entertaining, and things are starting to happen for us. We were in control against Dundee on Tuesday, but the guys just didn’t have that killer instinct to go on and finish them off.”
Flyers welcome title-chasing Sheffield Steelers to Fife Ice Arena this Saturday for a repeat of the pre-Christmas cracker between the sides that saw Flyers take a 5-1 lead only to lose 6-5 in overtime.