Fife Flyers need a win and some favours to keep Challenge Cup qualifying hopes alive
Fife Flyers wrap their Challenge Cup qualifying campaign this weekend, needing at least one win and results elsewhere to go their way to progress to the quarter-finals.
The team is on the road to play Belfast Giants on Saturday, returning for a Sunday Hallowe’en showdown with Dundee Stars.
Eight of the nine starting teams go through to the knockout stages.
For Flyers to be in that mix they must log one win and hope that, in the other groups, Manchester Storm - yet to gain point after four starts - lose both weekend games, or Coventry Blaze fall short in their matches against Cardiff Devils.
Qualification would be a welcome boost after a painful start to the season saw the team take several weeks to find its feet.
But they go again without Chase Schaber, despite the forward signing a fortnight ago and arriving in town.
The fans’ favourite has yet to kit up, and Todd Dutiaume, head coach, confirmed he won’t feature against Giants or Stars.
Flyers have yet to taste victory against Belfast, but claimed the win on their last meeting with Stars.
With qualification out of their own hands, Dutiaume said: “The focus of this squad has been game by game to try out the things that will make us successful in long run.
“The position we found ourselves in at the start of the season was clearly not what we wanted, but we have seen improvements as pucks start to drop and players find their confidence.”
He expects a tough game across the Irish Sea, and on home ice as Stars return in search of a result that secures a good seeding for the quarter-finals.
Flyers’ coach continues to look to make additions and changes to his roster, but faces a double whammy of a drought in the transfer market, and the challenge of only having six registration changes available - and he has used two already.
Schaber’s signature accounted for one, while the short-term use of Rihards Grigors as defensive cover in the opening games claimed another.
That leaves him with four to use to strengthen the squad.
And while fans have seen a few other EIHL sides make signings, Dutiaume said: “It is a barren market. There are four or five teams looking for players right now, but so many things come into making a move.
“We have the money to spend and we have the backing of the directors to move - we’re not sitting here playing a wait and see game in the hope things improve or trying to cut corners - but we have to make smart, smart choices rather than short-term pick-ups.
“We desperately need centremen to get Craig Peacock and Bari McKenzie on to the wings. “They are doing great jobs, but that change improves our lines.”
“A left-winger may be available but bringing him to Fife means we just log-jam that position.
“While guys can play in different positions, we want our players in slots where they are most effective.”
> Flyers Supporters Club is celebrating Hallowe’en with trick of treat goody bags, and is encouraging young fans to turn out in spooky costumes.
It is also inviting them to add their pumpkins to an outdoor display.
Full details https://www.facebook.com/FifeFlyersSupportersClub/