Fife Flyers draw huge positives in one-goal loss to champions Belfast Giants
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They went at Belfast Giants from the get-go, and did everything except score. As head coach Tom Coolen observed afterwards: “The name of the game is putting the puck in the net.”
Once his forwards ignite then he will have a complete team; one that will rattle the biggest clubs in the league, and keep the points from games on home ice.
There was no doubt Giants were able to weather the storm with their greater strength in depth, but they were more than matched by a sterling defensive performance rom Fife, and thwarted by a rock-like Shane Owen between the pipes. Had just one chance fallen their way, Flyers could easily - and perhaps deservedly - taken a point from this Challenge Cup tie.
Coolen promised fans a hard working team, and it delivered straight from the puck drop as Flyers flew at Giants from the puck drop, but he also noted “we are a work in progress” with just 16 shots on goal indicating an area to focus on.
They went on the powerplay within 38 seconds, but could find no way past netminder Jackson Whistle - top notch penalty killing by both teams was a running theme of the night as the officials generated some ire with their calls.
Anthon Erikkson had a couple of great chances, but the period ended in deadlock - and it was a similar story into the second where Fife killed off a huge four-minute powerplay with Owen making one huge save. Giants finally broke the deadlock at 31:23 a they caught Fife on a turnover, and when the puck was turned back off the boards, Ciaran Long rifled it home through traffic.
Five on five, Giants had a lot of possession, but Fife were resolute in their own zone as the game went into the third period. The big talking point at 44:45 was a a hit which took out Anthon Erikkson as he flew down the boards. The impact of him striking the side of the plexi took its toll and he took time to get up.
Three minutes later, Miles Gendron took out Lucas Chiodo as he went in on goal, but the Fife forward couldn’t convert his penalty shot. Max Humitz was then denied by Whistle with one of the big saves of the period. As the clock wound down, Fife needed to find an opportunity to pull Owen, but a hooking called against Osterberg and a misconduct to Chiodo saw them have to end the game five on three. That they dig deep to kill it off spoke volumes about their commitment, but left them no time to find a last minute chance at goal.