Fife Flyers seal dramatic game with late comeback

Ryan Dingle receives Fife Flyers Mirror of Merit award from Matthew Elder, head of sport, Fife Free Press (Pic: Steve Gunn)
Ryan Dingle receives Fife Flyers Mirror of Merit award from Matthew Elder, head of sport, Fife Free Press (Pic: Steve Gunn)

Just 13 seconds were left on the clock when Kyle Haines struck the sweetest game winning goal you’ll ever see.

A night which saw Fife Flyers go relentlessly at Braehead Clan only to be halted by a rock-like presence of netminder Chris Holt finally ended with a 2-1 victory from a truly pulsating play-off quarter-final first leg tie.

They’d created chance after chance, and skated non-stop at a Braehead side that grabbed at 19th minute lead and then seemed to settle for 1-0 rather than pursue a more definitive lead to take back to their own arena tomorrow night.

This tie is far from over, but the momentum swung back to Fife in the most dramatic of ways tonight.

They blitzed Clan with 19 shots in an opening period in which they chased every puck, pursued every player to the corners, and did everything except score. Had they netted one, they may well have gone on to win with a few to spare.

But Holt was impossible to beat from distance or indeed from any angle - even his rebounds just wouldn’t fall to a Fife stick.

His save to deny Dorr on the powerplay after blocking Haines’ slapshot just about summed it up - the Fife forward could only look up to the roof in disbelief at not ringing the red light.

Under pressure, Clan’s frustrations started to surface, and there was plenty of chat on the pad as players stood their ground after a hit or a melee on the boards, but they went in with a precious lead thanks to Marcus Gotz turning home Matt Keith’s pass to the back post on the powerplay at 19:03.

Period two saw Fife continue to surge forward, and continue to be stoned by Holt.

The netminder went down injured early in the period, and took some time to get treatment, but he remained a solid barrier.

With half an hour played he got a touch on Sachetti’s shot, and Haines was denied a rebound goal thanks to Scott Aarssen’s stick making crucial contact at the vital second.

The third period was more of the same - Clan seemed to tighten up defensively and deny Fife many clear opportunities, but in hockey, if you stay patient, and stay focussed then all it takes is one opening.

As the period progressed, Fife needed the energy a goal would deliver - and with it a feeling they’d then go on to take the game.

But the clock was winding down with every shift. Time was, literally, running out.

Fife had to kill off two minutes short handed at 53:43 as Tommy Muir went for holding, but they kept going and, finally, got their reward - thoroughly deserved for what they had put into the game - at 58:39.

The equaliser came on the powerplay as Leavitt took a silly, and utterly pointless interference call for hoisting a Fife player on to the bar of Holt’s goal.

With 1:21 left on the clock, Sachetti fired in a shot, Holt blocked and, in an instant, Ryan Dingle found the space to turn the rebound into the net.

Cue that energy surge as Fife simply flew at Braehead.

With 13 seconds remaining, Haines was wide open on the left point. He took the pass and nailed it with a one-time shot that flew in to the net, sparking glorious scenes of celebration around the rink.

As the buzzer sounded and the noise levels exploded, Clan coach Ryan Finnerty let rip with a verbal volley at the officials, before being huckled down the tunnel.

Tomorrow he, Clan, Dutiaume and Flyers go again.

For one, the season ends tomorrow. For the overall winner, it rolls on to Nottingham.

>> For live updates from Braehead v Fife on Sunday follow @mattelder_ffp on Twitter