ICE HOCKEY: Big Matt back with a Gordie Howe hat-trick

Matt Nickerson. Fife Flyers
Matt Nickerson. Fife Flyers

From a four-game ban to a rare Gordie Howe hat-trick - Matt Nickerson certainly knows how to make an impact.

Fife Flyers’ enforcer stepped back on to the ice on Saturday night after completing his suspension, and transformed a side that caved 5-0 to Cardiff into 5-1 winners in Nottingham.

His own contribution was a Gordie Howe hat-trick - a goal, an assist and a fight all in one game.

And for sheer cheek, he even played air guitar while in the sin bin!

There’s no doubt the team missed his physical presence, and his personality - and he owed them this one. On Friday night he completed his suspension by selling foam pucks for the ‘Chuck A Puck’ game. Twenty-four later he was bossing the hockey game.

That said, Flyers were still minus skipper Kyle Haines and Chris Auger, injured after being sent hurtling through an open bench door during the Cardiff shut out, so this was still a genuine stand-out result and a superb team performance.

The challenge facing Flyers now is to get some momentum going, end the gulf between the highs and the lows this season - and get back into firm play-off contention.

Friday night’s shut out on home ice was just wretched to watch. Hockey’s answer to Black Friday was Bleak Friday where Fife managed a pitiful three shots on goal in one period as Devils turned them over in the most professional and accomplished way.

As always it started brightly, but the fragility of a Fife side minus key players was revealed once more as the opening goal at Matt Myers’ 5:45 effectively crushed their confidence.

It was 2-0 at 17:26 through Doug Clarkson, and the least said about the middle period, the better.

Flyers were outshot 15-3 and outplayed across the ice pad.

They had a goal washed out - a perfectly good call from referee Allan Craig - and that seemed to extinguish their slender hopes of a comeback.

Devils declared at 5-0, leaving head coach Todd Dutiaume to reflect: ‘‘Cardiff play similar system to us but they worked harder and were lot more committed to it. That was a good hockey club we saw tonight.’’

Flyers wretched misfortune was perhaps summed up when Auger was sent flying by a check from Doug Clarkson.

The door to the Cardiff bench hadn’t been locked, and he landed heavily, and painfully, on the concrete. When you can’t buy a win, Lady Luck tends to look in the opposite direction ...

And yet, 24 hours later the team hit the road to Nottingham and served up a result that raised eyebrows across the league.

On a run of eight losses from nine, Flyers dismantled Panthers 5-1 with most of the damage coming in a stunning second period.

Nickerson’s fifth minute powerplay gave them a first period edge, before they set about destroying one of the EIHL’s biggest teams.

Bobby Chaumont made it 2-0 and Jordan Fulton 3-0, with Nickerson getting the assist.

Ned Lukacevic and Scott Fleming raised the bar to five with Panthers only able to net once in reply.

Nickerson just needed the fight for his Howe hat-trick, and it came behind the net as he collided with replacement goalie Dan Green He and Schmidt took fives for fighting, but the defenceman knew the job was done as he played air guitar ion the sin bin!

Tonight (Sunday) Flyers are in Coventry for a must-win game that, once again, could change the shape of their season.

A four-point weekend would create clear daylight between them and Coventry in the race for the play-offs and, crucially, give them some momentum going into the festive schedule.