James Isaacs believes expectation levels at Fife Flyers have soared after a period of relative success on the ice.
When the defenceman joined in 2016 the club had yet to win a conference title, were struggling to pick up wins outside Scotland, and had spent the previous years scrapping for a top eight place.
Now with a Gardiner Conference under their belt, two appearances in the play-off finals in the past three years, and currently sitting second in the EIHL standings, with big road wins claimed in Cardiff, Belfast, Sheffield and Nottingham, Isaacs reckons the demands are higher than ever.
“Sometimes the fans can be our best friends or our worst enemies, as I’m sure they’ll admit,” Isaacs said.
“If you go back two years ago to when I first arrived, if we’d been in this position after 20 games there wouldn’t be one unhappy fan in the crowd.
“Now there are, because the expectations are higher now.
“We’ve got a good core of players here that have really put this team on the map, and we have high expectations in the room as well.
“We’ve come a long way from when we’d be happy to split the season series with teams like Cardiff, Nottingham and Sheffield.
“Now we want to win these series and it doesn’t matter whether we’re on the road or at home.”
Isaacs admitted that the team failed to live up to those expectations in the 6-2 defeat at home to Sheffield Steelers on Saturday.
“It was terrible - probably our worst outing of the year,” he confessed, “especially against a team we had the mental advantage on. We certainly gave that up.
“We didn’t do anything we practiced all week and we came out below average.
“Even if we were average we would have given them a better run for their money.
“A performance like that hasn’t been part of our mantra and it’s something no one in the room is happy about, especially on home ice, where you never want to come out with a poor effort.”
The encouraging aspect though, Isaacs explained, was the team’s reaction in Nottingham on Sunday where a 3-2 penalty shots defeat did not reflect Fife’s performance.
“We were unlucky not to come out with the two points,” he said. “We scored first which is something we haven’t been doing all year in one of the toughest buildings in the league. We certainly rebounded.”
Isaacs was speaking ahead of the trip to Cardiff last night (Wednesday), which Fife lost 3-2, but was also looking ahead to the weekend double header against his former club, Dundee Stars.
“Dundee always seem to make a big deal of Fife going into town,” he said. “They’re certainly a team that’s given us some issues in the past.
“We’re ahead in standings but it’s never easy against them. They’re a rival team, and I’ve been around this fixture long enough to know that it doesn’t matter where the teams are in the standings, it will always be a close game.
“We need to make sure we’re putting 100 per cent effort in because they are the type of team who will come back and bite you if don’t bury them when you have the opportunities.”
Isaacs is back playing in defence this season after spending much of the past two campaigns deputising as a forward.
“I’m back in my natural habitat,” he said. “Every year it seems like I have different role on the team, but I’m just trying to make sure I’m filling the gap, playing solid defensively, and being as physical as possible.
“We talk about our role at the start of the year with the coaches and I know that’s what they want from me and, as far as I know, I think they are relatively happy with how I’m playing.
“I play a simple game so there’s not too much ups or downs for me. As long as I work hard and keep it simple I usually have a pretty steady game.
“I miss playing forward sometimes, it’s fun to hit some guys out there, but we have more depth up front this year, with Brits who have been playing really well. We run four lines now in practice which is something we haven’t really had over the last couple of years.”