Fife Flyers hopes of a place in the play-off final were dashed by a strong Cardiff Devils who skated to a 4-0 win this afternoon.
A capacity crowd of 8000 fans watched the league champs break this absorbing game wide open in the third period to push the Fife side into tomorrow’s Bronze Final.
Flyers had a great opening period during which they created the best of the chances, but, crucially, it ended- goal less.
Once Devils got into a groove in a much tighter middle period, this game started to turn.
They put Fife under pressure, but their own finishing was less than sharp, and it took a swat at a bouncing puck to break the stalemate after 35 long minutes.
Flyers went into the second break just one goal in arrears, and came back off the ropes once again, but a lightning double effectively ended their dreams of a first ever EIHL-era place in the final.
They iced again without the injured Evan Bloodoff and Ian Young - two hugely influential skaters - and left it all on the ice, but this time there was to be no comeback for the comeback kings of British hockey.
A team that has produced astonishing victories from the most un-winnable of positions could find no way back once Cardiff wrapped their gloves around this game.
They didn’t get many of the bounces of the puck, but the better side won, and Devils are now one step closer to a league and play-off double.
The opening period saw Fife skate with immense energy and guts as they pushed Cardiff back at every opportunity.
From Peter LeBlanc’s first minute shot onwards, they poured huge energy into this game - a spirit typified by Carlo Finucci who was everywhere on the ice.
He alone had several great shots on goal, while, at the other end, Andy Iles produced one of the saves of the season as he shut down Josh Batch who was free to simply pick his spot.
On the powerplay, Flyers lost Shayne Stockton to a hit on the plexi - he hobbled off, but returned for the second period.
Flyers kept pushing, but the fine line between getting that go-ahead goal and going back in still level was summed up in the dying seconds as Birzins, who had a rock solid game on the blue line, firing from the point, and James Isaacs digging at the near post for a rebound that he just couldn’t get enough on.
If Cardiff were lax in the opening period, then whatever was said in the room saw a side transformed for the second period. Hockey heads were switched on, and they were dominant, giving Fife little room to breathe far less get the puck high.
Devils were still wasteful in front of the net - Matt Pope went wide from front of net - and how on earth they did’’;score with Iles spread-eagled on the ice is a mystery. The goalie once again saw them off.
But a goal came finally after 35 minutes of intense play-off hockey as a puck bounced in front of a packed net, and Tyson Strachan had the space to swat it into the net.
It was crucial Flyers went into the break without further damage. They did that.
They came out and started to push once more, but without really testing Ben Bowns in the net.
As so often happens, this game turned with two lightning quick goals.
Pope bagged a rebound for 2-0 at 42:42, and then, with the defence at sea and bodies everywhere, Layne Ulmer hit the net from close range at 47:14, prompting an immediate time out from Fife.
The comeback kings of British hockey needed a comeback that would eclipsed all others, but any hopes they had were snuffed out when Justin Faryna netted a slick fourth after 52 minutes.
Flyers came to win, and came in the belief they could do so.
For the third time, they were left facing the Bronze medal game.
Their turn will come.