Fife Flyers: Tom Coolen on big win after ‘longest month of my coaching career’

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Tom Coolen described December as the longest month of his coaching career - and given that spans some four decades, it’s an indication of the scale of the frustration, pressure and the challenges it threw up.

Two wins from 14 games shoehorned into 31 days, countless hours on the road, injuries and illness constantly impacting on the line-up, the loss of starting goalie Shane Owen, a 10-goal shellacking in Dundee, and three players all departing the dressing-room combined to create the stormiest of seas.

And just when he got re-enforcements into town, he was hit by paperwork delays and lost kit, underlining the old adage that when you are struggling, Lady Luck always looks in the opposite direction. Hogmanay’s electrifying, long overdue 7-4 win over Glasgow Clan was much more than just two precious points. It was the result Fife needed to re-ignite a season that started in such style and had fans buzzing for the campaign ahead.

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Coolen has remained as upbeat as he could - he is, by his own admission, a glass half full kinda guy. Replacing the players who opted to leave were curve balls which came his way at the worst possible time, but he is confident each replacement is an upgrade, and, a healthy, healed team will power into a new year with renewed energies.

Drake Pilon faces down Glasgow Clan skater Charlie Combs (Pic: Jillian McFarlane)Drake Pilon faces down Glasgow Clan skater Charlie Combs (Pic: Jillian McFarlane)
Drake Pilon faces down Glasgow Clan skater Charlie Combs (Pic: Jillian McFarlane)

“I will be able to sleep a little bit better this week,” he said after Sunday’s big win. “It has been quite a month - the longest month of my coaching career. We’ve had a lot of games, a lot of travelling, a lot of ups and downs, and I’d like to feel we battled through.”Coolen’s squad now has the luxury of a week off to rest and enjoy Ne’er. As the relentless nature of December’s schedule gives way to a more balanced January.

“A week off until we play again - hard to believe” he said, underlining his disbelief at the packed schedules which offer next to no recovery time for his, and all EIHL, teams.

Flyers travel to face a struggling, bewilderingly inconsistent Belfast Giants on Saturday before welcoming Nottingham Panthers to Fife Ice Arena on Sunday. They will have former Guildford Flames goalie Kevin Lindsjoug available to play as cover for Owen who has been placed on the Injury Reserve (IR) list.

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Lindsjoug actually followed Owen as Coolen’s netminder in Katowice in Poland in 2017-18 and 2018-19, so the coach knows exactly what he is getting.

“He will come in here and do a job,” he said. “He is an experienced guy who can step in and steal a game for us - a welcome addition.”

A new defenceman is due to arrive imminently - an experienced skater Coolen has tracked for some time - while new Canadian forward Drake Pilon made a huge impact with a thrilling debut against Clan.

“He just stepped off plane yesterday and didn’t get a practice with us,” said Coolen, “He has got a lot of testosterone - he’s a guy who wants to finish his checks and get in teams’ faces. He’s a smart player - he has a good hockey IQ, is a good skater and there is always a place for a guy like that who is not afraid of anything.”

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