Fife Flyers: Challenge Cup loss to Belfast Giants underlines need for killer instinct
Fife Flyers wrapped their first weekend of competitive ice hockey since the pandemic with two defeats and just one goal scored.
As wake-up calls go, it was pretty direct.
After defeat in Coventry on Saturday, Flyers made the long journey home to host Belfast Giants in the opening Challenge Cup match.
The 5-1 final scoreline pretty much said it all.
The opening period saw netminder Shane Owen standing as a brick wall against an Irish side which created chance after chance after chance, and yet, somehow went in 1-0 in arrears.
For 18 minutes they hemmed Flyers into their own zone, controlled the puck and looked for an opening goal which, you feared, would open the floodgates
A leg-weary Fife hung in and, completely against the run of play, snaffled an opening goal via Greg Chase.
Flyers found their groove in the middle period and played their best hockey - Chase had another great opportunity, Matt Carter went one on one but couldn’t convert, and Bari McKenzie saw a back hand flick across the crease tee up another opening.
Not taking those chances came at a hefty price.
Once Giants were back on level terms via a Jordan Boucher after 25 minutes, you sensed they’d strike again.
They did. Slater Doggett’s powerplay strike at 36:15 shifted the balance, and then David Goodwin delivered the game-changer third in the closing minute of the period as he came off the right boards and pulled the trigger with a lethal finish from distance.
The quality of some of Giants’ goals set them apart from Fife, and, had it not been for Owen, the final tally would have been higher.
He did all he could to keep his former side at bay on the powerplay in the 48th minute, making a huge save only for Giants to keep puck alive, and a diagonal pass to the back post opened up net for Scott Conway to fire home for 4-1.
But, Giants kept the best for last.
With nine minutes to play, Jordan Boucher flew down the right boards, and powered his way to front of the net before delivering a finish of the highest order.
That clinical edge is something Flyers forwards must find - and quickly.
Three goals across four games this far is a slim return.
Todd Dutiaume, head coach, could do worse than make his forwards watch the tape of this game to study the speed, drive and strength of Giants’ forwards - and get them to follow suit.
His team is new and stacked with young pros - instilling that confidence is going to be key to ensure the team gets its first win, and quickly, to ignite this new hockey season.
“We have to take our offensive opportunities. We count on guys to get them - our forwards need to get more clinical,” he said post-game.
“We need that killer instinct. There is big hole to fill with an additional import and I'd like to bring in someone with size and bit more grit.”
Or, put another way, the club can’t afford NOT to find that player.