Fife Flyers’ toil in defeat to Manchester as crowd drops to three figures
A tough night on and off the ice for Fife Flyers, with no real positives to cling to.
A 5-1 home loss to Manchester Storm, allied to results elsewhere, shoved them to the bottom of the league at the start of a challenging December that may define their 2021-22 season.
It was a dreadfully poor performance from a team playing short-handed and without conviction.
The five-games they won on the spin in November, which revealed the character and potential of the roster, has been quashed by five straight losses, and a sense there may be more to come as the club enters a worrying slump.
Flyers were short-handed on Sunday and it was all too evident as they laboured against a Storm side which controlled this game from puck drop to final buzzer.
The only consolation is the final score could have been much worse, and that they did eventually break netminder Jason Bacashihua’s shut out after 42 long minutes of laboured hockey.
The visitors’ opening goal at 8:12 pretty much summed up the game.
Cam Critchlow was on his knees near Fife’s blue line but still managed to control the puck and thread it to Austin Albrecht in front of the net. He dragged it back, brought it under control and flicked past Shane Owen.
To lose a second goal at 19:02 was a hammer blow from which Flyers never recovered. Quick puck movement saw Zach Sullivan find the net as Fife continued to lack any conviction in their play.
The second period was more of the same as Storm snatched pucks across Fife’s zone and looked to put this game beyond doubt - in truth, few thought it was still up for grabs.
Goal three on the half hour was painful to witness as Storm cut through Fife’s defence as if it didn’t exist, and a thunderbolt of a shot from Ben Wilson flew into the net.
Colton Waltz’s rebound strike two minutes into the third halted the slide, but in truth, Flyers never looked like salvaging this game.
Storm needed just five seconds of a 44th minute powerplay for Dallas Ehrhardt to net.
Two minutes later he turned playmaker as Fife puck watched, his pass to Tayler Thomson giving him the opening for 5-1.
That was the last straw for some fans who headed to the exits. They’d suffered, and seen, enough.
Bottom of the table is a tough place to be - even more so when the teams around you all have a number of games in hand, and this month makes you go head to head with them.
Kitting up and skating through the schedules seems to be Flyers’ only option unless they can crack a recruitment market Todd Dutiaume described tonight as “barren.”
Fans point to other teams making moves, either as injury cover or grabbing players who have been released, and you can sense the frustration of - and gap between - both parties.
Playing short handed you cannot afford injuries. Playing short handed means players get hurt.
Flyers are without captain, Matt Carter, until Christmas, while this weekend saw them also ice without Bari McKenzie and Greig Chase.
They are a club in search of a spark to turn things back round.
But five losses on the spin feels like a rut, one that may yet deepen.
And that can only further harm the crowds.
Sunday’s game was also watched by just 901 fans – a figure that should set alarm bells ringing across the club.
From 2000-plus for the opening game down to mid 1500, and then 1100, attendances have now dropped to three-figures.
Everything feels flat.