Fife Flyers deliver superb win in bid to make Challenge Cup final

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Fife Flyers gave themselves every chance of reaching the Challenge Cup final with a fine 3-2 semi-final first leg win over Sheffield Steelers last night.

‘Even or better’ was the goal the team set, and it more than delivered with a performance that chimed with the fans, and underlined further that their season is now coming fully alive.

There were some huge endeavours put in by players on a night flyers had to be at the top of their game to go head to head with Steelers.

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They won two of the three periods, soaked up the most intense pressure in the middle, and won many individual battles on the ice pad as players blocked shots, and charged down loose pucks every shift.

Goal! Janne Kivihlahti and Brayden Sherbinin celebrate against Steelers (Pic: Derek Young)Goal! Janne Kivihlahti and Brayden Sherbinin celebrate against Steelers (Pic: Derek Young)
Goal! Janne Kivihlahti and Brayden Sherbinin celebrate against Steelers (Pic: Derek Young)

Mikael Johansson took the MoM award on a night when there were a host of contenders, including Brayden Sherbinin, who fired the winning goal to cap a towering performance in defence; Chris Gerrie who tirelessly chased down every puck and defenceman, and Dillon Lawrence whose mastery at face-offs was a crucial factor in securing the win.

The only downside was the crowd - just 1003 - as the game was televised live, but those rinkside created a smashing atmosphere from the get-go.

James Spence made his return from a long lay-off with a broken hand, while Chris Lawrence missed out through illness.

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The opening period was back and forth, and played at pace. The best chance fell to Flyers after 11 minutes when Scott Henderson rode a big hit on the boards, and released the puck for Kamerin Nault who fired off a great shot which offered up a huge rebound.

Flyers went ahead at 14:06 with the first of their two powerplay goals - Zack Phillips with the pass, Johnasson with the finish.

Phillips then delivered another trademark one timer as the specialist team struck again for 2-0 at 19:31.

Steelers’ second period response was intense. The pressure on Fife’s zone was relentless, and it was no surprise to see them tie the game by the halfway stage with goals from Robert Dowd and Martin Latal, the second on the powerplay.

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Crucially, Fife emerged on level terms, regrouped, and went back on the offensive in the third.

They were ahead against at 43:30 when Sherbinin surged forward, saw his shot blocked and kept his momentum to bag the rebound.

They finished this game strongly, killing one penalty, and staying ultra focussed on every shift to take a lead into the second leg.

Jeff Hutchins, associate coach, paid tribute to the players: “The number of shots they blocked was incredible. Guys put their bodies on the line and is a sign of a team moving in right direction. We’ve put ourselves in a great position - and that was our aim.”

The goal was ‘even or better’ – the team delivered that, and more.