Fife Flyers head coach Todd Dutiaume believes the team is starting to click at both ends of the ice after a resounding win over Manchester Storm.
Flyers are on a four-game hot streak but the first three victories saw Shane Owen face a combined 150 shots, leading to some question marks over the team’s defending.
However, after restricting Storm to precious few chances on Sunday, only conceding two goals late in the game after racing into a 7-0 lead, Dutiaume is happier with the overall performance.
“We relied a lot more on our goaltender the previous week than we would have liked to,” Dutiuame said.
“Although that’s what he’s there for, and he’s just doing his job, we certainly don’t want him that busy week in, week out.
“The key was playing a lot tougher defensively and working our way out from there.
“We were smothering pucks in our own zone, and any loose pucks in front of our net there was three or four guys there to clear it out, and away we went.
“That was nice to see.
“When we play good solid defence, our offensive chances come naturally.
“At the start of the year we had a few guys struggling to get off the mark and that starts wearing in a player’s head that he needs to get a goal or produce points, and other parts of his game suffer.
“But now that everyone has got the monkey off their back we can concentrate on the all-round game and the last few weeks have been certainly been a lot happier place around here.”
With Joe Basaraba’s return ensuring a fully fit group, and Brits pushing for ice time, Dutiaume believes that his forward line is one of the strongest assembled in the EIHL era.
“We really like our forwards as a group,” he said. “We’re well balanced again, and hard pressed to pick a first, second or third line, which is a great place to be in.
“On any given night someone will pick up the slack, whereas on Sunday, all three lines were firing and that’s great to see. We have 10 forwards that are more than capable of filling regular shifts in this league at a regular pace, and there’s competition for those spots.
“They can push up into the line-up which is great. It also allows us to get some of younger guys in and develop them too. When we have that depth it makes my job up front easier.”
With five imports plus Chris Wands playing regularly at the back, Flyers have also been able to avoid over-playing imports, a situation which has often plagued them in recent campaigns.
“It’s the first time we’ve run with five, so their numbers are not as high as usual in defence,” Dutiaume said. “There was a big change when Scott Aarssen came in. He’s a leader and a driving force back there, making sure guys get directed into their defensive roles.
“We’re probably not going be looking to get as much offence out of our D-men as we did last year, but we’ve got a lot of firepower up front.
“Right now we’re focusing on getting back and retrieving pucks quick, getting it into the forwards’ hands and doing a good job back there in front of Owen. We’ve got progressively better over the last four games and we’ll just continue to build on that.”
Flyers complete their Challenge Cup group section tonight when they travel to Braehead Arena for Glasgow Clan’s home opener.
“We usually get pegged with their home opener and we know it will be a big crowd and a charged atmosphere as usual,” Dutiaume said.
“It will be a good benchmark for us, but it’s also our final Challenge Cup match and we need to win it if we have any hope of qualifying for the next round.”
Flyers then have Saturday off before welcoming Sheffield Steelers to Fife Ice Arena on Sunday, who are without a head coach after parting company with Paul Thompson this week.
Dutiaume said: “You never want to see one of your colleagues leave their post.
“Paul is known as Mr Hockey within the UK community, and it just shows the pressures and strains that all of us as coaches are under.
“We certainly feel for the guy and hope he gets back into the game as soon as he feels ready, because the game is a better place with him in it.”