Fife Flyers: fans flock back as new-look team re-ignites the rink

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The fuse has been lit. The fans who headed west on Saturday saw much more from Fife Flyers than a 4-0 loss to Glasgow Clan might suggest. The 2000 who poured into Fife Ice Arena on Sunday had that confirmed with a thrilling 5-1 victory over Clan. The crowd felt bigger, and louder, than the attendance, but regardless, it was the sort of game to re-ignite the rink and get people into their seats every weekend. If this is the benchmark, we are in for a cracking season.

There are many tough tests ahead, but Tom Coolen has moulded a team with an ultra strong work ethic, one with speed, skill and a bit of grit which will post opposition challenges at home and on the road.

One stat stood out on Saturday - Flyers hammered 70 shots on Clan’s goal; their highest ever tally in the EIHL. Had it not been for netminder Antti Karalainen, the final score could have been significantly higher as Fife skated hard, and went at their rivals from the get-go.

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Max Humitz led with two goals in a superb performance, but there were a host of contenders for the post-game beers - Ben Hawerchuk grafted and harried every Clan player every shift, and Anthon Erikkson was in the thick of the action all night long.

Teemu Pulkkinen celebrates his goal against Clan (Pic: Jillian McFarlane)Teemu Pulkkinen celebrates his goal against Clan (Pic: Jillian McFarlane)
Teemu Pulkkinen celebrates his goal against Clan (Pic: Jillian McFarlane)

For Humitz it was a night to savour: “It felt like a sold out crowd because they were so loud - we couldn’t hear the guys on the ice at time it was so loud!

“We knew we had to play hard and that’s what we did. We dominated from the get go and that is how it is going to be for the rest of the season.”

Flyers and Clan went in at the first break 0-0, thanks largely to Karalainen’s saves, but it took just 41 seconds of the second period for the dam to burs with Anthon Erikkson rifling home a fine wrist shot from inside the blue line. It could have been 2-0 on the very next shift as Gilling's pass opened up ice for Max Humitz who hit the side netting.

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The west coast side tied the game up with a fine short handed strike at 24:37, Robert Lachowicz setting up Zach Vinnell for the finish, but Fife quickly regrouped and the chances continued to come thick and fast as Clan struggled to find any rhythm amid a small flurry of minor penalties.

With half an hour gone, Teemu Pulkkinen was taken down going for goal. His penalty shot was perfectly executed for 2-1 to set up a third period which saw Clan swept away on a 3-0 scoreline. Humitz got the goal he deserved just seconds after Clan killed off an elbows call against Luke Lynch at 45:18, and the forward struck again for 4-1 just two minutes later - sweeping on to a fine pass from Casey Gilling and delivering a superb finish.

Pulkkinen’s second sealed a fabulous 5-1 win, but it could have been more - Troy Lajeunesse twice struck the metalwork in one shift as Clan clung on for dear life.

For coach Coolen, it was a night to enjoy : “Get the fans in here behind our team every night and this will be a tough place to play and we will be a tough team to play.”

Clan found that out on Sunday, Belfast Giants are up next. This new season could be one to savour.

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