Fife Flyers went down 3-1 to title chasing Belfast Giants in Kirkcaldy – but the scoreline doesn’t tell the story of a fantastic game.
This televised match was tied at 1-1 with just minutes to go when Flyers were left short handed and Giants pounced on the powerplay before adding an empty net goal to seal a huge victory.
Up until that point, this hockey game was heading to overtime as Flyers matched the Irish side every step of the way in a non-stop, end to end game.
The Fife side turned in one of their best performances of 2019 despite icing without three imports – Evan Stoflet was suspended and Scott Aarssen and Paul Crowder injured – to underline their own play-off credentials.
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The result knocked them down to seventh, but they have games in hand over the teams directly above and blow them, and, on this form, can ensure they clinch one of the eight post-season competition spots.
There were huge performances across the Fife bench as they competed superbly with Giants.
Brett Bulmer delivered another showreel goal, Dannick Gauthier revelled in the thick of the action, and Carlo Finnuci was the engine which drove the team all night.
Shane Owen’s saves were crucial in the opening period, and defensively Fife emerged with the puck more often than not as they worked as a solid unit.
Both sides pinged metalwork as chances were thrown up every other shift, and Fife had a goal washed out – a clever wraparound from Chase Schaber which could well have stood and given them the lead at a key point in the third.
Giants grabbed the opening goal at 14:19 as Dustin Johner turned and shot on the spin, and held that lead until the 48th minute when Brett Bulmer seized the puck, danced past one player, past a second and pinged a wrist shot sweetly into the net in one glorious flowing move to brink the rink alive.
In between the fans soaked up some great hockey with chances falling at both ends, and two outstanding netminders holding their ground throughout.
The game hung in the balance throughout the third period and seemed to be heading to overtime when Ricards Birzins was called for slashing at 56:55.
Giants needed just 13 seconds of the powerplay to find the net as Darcy Murphy went top shelf.
It was huge blow to Fife who had to gamble by pulling Owen with 1:10 remaining. The move didn’t work as Murphy grabbed possession and hit the empty net for a 3-1 scoreline which simply didn’t reflect this hockey game.
Todd Dutiaume head coach, said afterwards: “We looked dangerous and engaged tonight. It was an exciting game to watch – that’s the kind of hockey fans want to see.”
Flyers return to the ice on Friday with a home game against bottom of the table MK Lightning.