Fife Flyers: challenge games to get team set for cup semi-final test
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They were due to play a Scottish Cup competition with Stars and Glasgow Clan, but the Braehead side opted out. Stars and Flyers meet in Dundee on Saturday, and again at Fife Ice Arena on Sunday.
And while there has been a backlash online from fans who felt the club should also have given the players time-off, head coach Todd Dutiaume has pointed to the crucial cup tie as a solid reason for lacing up.
Clan had agreed to play the Scottish Cup competition in a week pencilled in as an international break with other EIHL teams having key players away on GB duty.
While the west coast side will have a blank weekend, Fife intend to make full use of the games to stay sharp ahead of their Sheffield trip.
Todd Dutiaume, head coach, said: “We are in a unique position within a crucial semi-final second leg game next week.
“This weekend was never a holiday - it was an international break because some of the big teams are missing key Brits and did not want to play without them.
“We want to make sure we are ready for Wednesday. We want to keep the guys sharp, and with the international break, we had to find a way to do that. The Scottish Cup, which was agreed by all three teams,was a way to do that.”
Dutaime and Jeff Hutchins, associate coach, plan to give ice time to players on the fringe of the action and those returning from injury - and also iron out some issues that arose from last weekend’s losses in Glasgow and Belfast.
Flyers took just two from a possible six points in their weekend triple header, and trail Clan by one point with a game in hand in a race to grab the last play-off spot.
Jeff Hutchins, associate coach, admitted the returns were “below expectations” adding: “We wanted something out of Saturday’s game against Clan.
"If you look at the league, the teams chasing the last spot have a number of head to heads to come.
"They have to win them to move up the standings - had we won against Clan we’d have gone above them with a game in hand, so that was a big chance.”
Hutchins described a goal dismissed after a video review a “momentum changer” but said individual errors were the story of the game - issues the coaches want to iron out in this weekend’s challenge games.
He said: “As a group we were not happy with the way we finished the weekend, regardless of the fact it was a three on three. A lot of things on Sunday in Belfast were not characteristic of our game in recent weeks, so we want to get back to a solid, basic structures and tidy them up."
The weekend saw the debut of Canadian forward Liam MacDougall who joined the club late last week - he is likely to be the club’s last addition before the signing deadline falls. The 25-year-old from Windsor, Ontario, iced in 23 ECHL games over the last two seasons, the majority with Norfolk Admirals where he recorded one goal and two assists in 17 starts. He opened his Flyers’ shift with three points.
Hutchins said: “Liam hadn’t skated in five weeks before coming here so to jump in and play three in three was testament to his character. He will give us that edge going forward.”