Fife Flyers & Glasgow Clan reignite rivalry & passions for new ice hockey season
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When the puck drops on Saturday, expect Glasgow Clan and Fife Flyers to serve up one of their full throttle encounters; the very sort of hockey that creates a unique buzz rinkside, and gets everyone talking about the sport after the long summer lay-off.
Twelve months ago, Flyers went to Braehead and served up a third period performance that left Clan on the ropes, skating to a 6-5 win that bagged the first points in the Challenge Cup that, ultimately, took Todd Dutiaume’s team all the way to the final for the very first time. The slate is wiped clean this weekend as they meet again in Braehead on Saturday, and again at Fife Ice Arena on Sunday - two games which should be played in front of noisy, bumper crowds.
For coaches Jason Morgan and Tom Coolen, it will be their first taste of an east-west rivalry that, at its peak, saw the ‘full house’ signs routinely deployed. Both will want to make the best possible start, particularly on home ice where they will, rightly, be judged by their fan bases.
For Clan, the nightmares of last season’s off-ice chaos have receded with new owners at the helm and a new man on the bench. Morgan has recruited well and needs his side to restore the credibility that was torn from it last season. His roster certainly has goals running through it.
The acquisition of Phillipe Sanche from Dundee Stars was a smart move. He will deliver points, along with ex-Stars skater Charlie Combs - 65 points in 52 starts in 2021-22 - but the big signing has to be Mike Pelech.
In a ten year career in the ECHL, he made more appearances than anyone else with 884 games, but it’s the numbers he generated that make him a stand out; 686 points with two thirds of them assists, making him the third all-time points scorer. If he fires in the EIHL he could add a new dimension to Clan’s offensive power - and don’t forget they also have Gary Haden, a player with an uncanny knack of scoring against Fife.
Former Guildford and Nottingham veteran Robert Lachowicz will bring vast experience to a roster that still features a few familiar names from last season,. If Morgan has got the blend right, Clan will certainly be more competitive and cohesive - and that, in turn will add a whole new dimension to the challenge for trophies and play-off places.
Clan set themselves a decent test pre-season going head to head with Belfast Giants and Cardiff Devils, winning one of the four games, but taking much more than the final score from the matches.
“We’re quite happy with that and I feel we’ve grown over the four games,” Lachowicz told Clan’s website. “To finish with a win in Belfast is something not many teams achieve.”
The focus now is the Challenge Cup and Fife - and the intensity that game brings.
“I heard it’s a big rivalry and the fans will all be going,” new defenceman Nate Kallen said on Clan Chat. “I also heard that Fife can be a rowdy place to play, but that gets everyone fired up too. With a good crowd, it’s fun to go out and show them who’s boss out there.”
The fans will find out who is the boss over two absorbing nights of hockey this weekend, with the prospect of more - much more - to come this season.