Fife Flyers welcomed old BNL sparring-partners Guildford Flames to the Fife Ice Arena on Saturday evening, looking to bounce back from last Sunday’s defeat at bottom side Milton Keynes Lightning.
This game was the start of the club’s festive programme, but this was far from a Christmas cracker...
The opening exchanges were fraught and as a result there wasn’t a lot in the way of clear scoring opportunities for either side, with both netminders dealing comfortably with all that came their way.
Then, after some more hesitant play in their own defensive zone, Flames carved out an excellent opportunity for John Dunbar, but Shane Owen was there to make a smart pad save from point blank range.
The next opportunity fell the way of the hosts when Bari McKenzie teed up Mike Cazzolla at the back post, but Travis Fullerton was on hand to deny the Fife forwards first-time wrist shot.
Flyers went on the powerplay after Jesse Craige was penalised for a high-stick on Danick Gauthier, but it was the visitors who thought they had taken a short-handed lead through an Ian Watters slapshot, but after video review, the officials washed the goal out.
As the period drew to a close, Fife were struggling to deal with Guildford’s pressing game and were certainly under concerted pressure going into the first interval.
The second period began in much of the same vein, with goalscoring opportunities at a premium, but Flyers came close when Brett Bulmer hit the post following some great play from Scott Aarssen.
Fife had certainly raised their tempo, but were almost caught out after Rick Pinkston had his pocket picked at centre-ice, but the Flames were unable to capitalise.
Watters thought he had once again broken the deadlock, but was again denied after video review, due to goaltender interference in the lead up to the goal.
Flyers were gifted a chance when Flames gave away the puck in their zone, but Joe Basaraba’s effort was saved by Fullerton to keep the game scoreless.
Flames began period three on the powerplay, but a combination of some stoic defensive play and some exceptional goaltending from Owen further frustrated the away side.
Parity was finally broken when Evan Stoflet threw the puck on net, and top-scorer Paul Crowder got the final touch to divert past Fullerton at 45.23.
Fife doubled their advantage on 51.58 when Gauthier fired the puck into traffic and Bari McKenzie was alert to slip the puck beyond Fullerton to give the hosts some breathing space.
Flames reduced the deficit on 55.48 through Ian Watters snipe after Kruise Reddick’s neat pass, before the hosts sealed victory through Brett Bulmer’s empty net finish from mid-ice.
Flyers boss Todd Dutiaume was thrilled with his team’s resilience to get the win.
“We weren’t perfect, but the work ethic was there, and that’s how we ground out results earlier in the season” be reflected.
“That was key to us being a successful hockey team, to have to be mature in a high-pressure situation, when the care level went up, it showed” he added.
Dutes also looked forward to next Saturday’s derby fixture against Glasgow Clan.
“They’re certainly a team that’s heating up, they got off to a slow start, but they’ve certainly produced a number of fantastic results of late” he stated.
“It’s good to have a conference rival in this building, the atmosphere has been flat and there is nothing like a Glasgow game to get that excitement going again” he grinned.
Flyers take on Clan next Saturday at the Fife Ice Arena, face-off 7.15.