Fife Flyers went head to head with reigning champions Cardiff Devils with the visitors looking to open up a four-point gap at the EIHL summit and the home side looking to further cement their grip on a play-off berth going into the business end of the regular season.
The Kirkcaldy club grafted all night long and led 2-1, but were beaten by a late double and went down to a 4-2 defeat.
Devils made the more impactful start, immediately putting Flyers under pressure, and didn’t give the hosts any time to settle, but they could not find the breakthrough from the early opportunities on Shane Owen’s net.
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Fife were growing into this contest, and they found themselves on the powerplay after Charles Linglet was called for a slash, but it was Cardiff who almost opened the scoring short-handed - Joey Martin was denied by a smart toe save from Owen on a breakaway.
Devils were showing exactly why they are top of the league, spraying the puck around the ice effortlessly, and when Marcus Basara was given a slashing penalty on 13.57, GB international Evan Mosey was on hand to finish at the back door to give them a 1-0 lead heading into the first interval.
Flyers began the second period on the front foot, with Brett Bulmer hitting anyone in his path. The fans inside the Auld Barn were giving excellent vocal support too, and the players responded in kind with a doggedly determined shift. After a concerted spell of pressure in the Cardiff zone, they got their reward when Marcus Basara fired high into the roof of Ben Bowns’ net to level at 37.54.
With the game finely poised and buoyed by their resilient display heading into the second break, Flyers took the lead just 24 seconds into the final period, when Joe Basaraba’s delightful backhand shot found its way past Bowns much to the frustration of the away side.
Devils responded well to going behind, and restored parity after some good work in their own zone, Layne Ulmer was on hand to finish neatly from point-blank range at 46.25.
Then came the suckerpunch for the hosts as Cardiff regained the lead when Gleason Fournier rifled home high into the net on 54.05.
This seemed to take the wind out of Fife’s sails, but when Stephen Dixon was penalised for interference with just over two minutes remaining in the game, Flyers rolled the dice in an effort to find a late leveller and pulled Owen to gain the extra-man advantage, but after Ulmer’s interception he found Italian international Sean Bentivoglio who coolly tapped home into the empty net at 58.52 to seal a vital two points for Cardiff in their title race with Belfast.
Flyers boss Todd Dutiaume praised his players effort and work ethic against a side that possesses such depth and quality.
“We knew we would be up against it, with us being short-staffed and Cardiff fighting for the title, we challenged the guys before the game and they responded well”.
“I thought for the majority we were there and in with a chance of taking points out of the game” he added.
“I think at some points, because they roll three, sometimes four lines that hits you in waves, fatigue sets in and that’s maybe where they found holes in our game towards the end, and we maybe didn’t have enough in the tank” he lamented.
This was another hardworking performance from Flyers and they left absolutely nothing on the ice pad tonight and can hold their heads high heading into this weekends double header with the Sheffield Steelers where there is more vital points at stake with both sides vying to claim a play-off spot.