Fife Flyers 3 Dundee Stars 5
Fife Flyers hopes of winning the Gardiner Conference are hanging by a thread following last night’s home defeat to Dundee Stars.
A perfect start saw Flyers go 2-0 up inside four minutes while playing their best hockey for some time, but they could not maintain it as Dundee fought back to claim a 5-3 win.
The result saw Dundee replace Fife at the top of the conference, and with two games in hand, Stars now look strong favourites to finish above their close rivals.
And with Braehead Clan just two points behind, with six games in hand, Flyers now look hard pushed to finish any higher than third, which would be a huge disappointment.
Flyers head coach Todd Dutiaume looked a frustrated man after watching his team go from brilliant to brutal in the same match.
“We came out in the first period and played the game plan exactly to a tee,” he said.
“They are not even on the same level as us - we’re all over them- then a loose play at the end of the period from an inividual mistake - again - costs us a goal.
“We regroup between periods, came back out, and lost that spark. In an important game, that’s so disappointing.
“Individual errors are crushing us right now.”
The game’s crucial and defining moment arrived with just four seconds left in the second period when, with the game tied at 3-3, Flyers failed to take the chance to clear a puck that trickled into their zone and Doug Clarkson pounced to put Stars in front for the first time.
Up until that point Flyers had been the team in command yet they found themselves behind through basic errors and lapses in concentration.
And when the challenge was set to mount a comeback of their own in the third period, the team’s back bone crumbled as Flyers earlier confidence and assertiveness disappeard without trace.
Flyers fired up start almost produced an opener inside 20 seconds as Ryan Dingle was presented with a clear chance at the back post but struck the inside of the post.
Dingle was not to be denied his goal however as, with John Dolan sitting out an early hooking penalty, a shot was saved, then spilled over the line by Vlastimil Lakosil, for Flyers PP opener on 2.18.
That lead was doubled on 3.22 as TJ Caig cracked a stunning slapshot into the net to give Flyers the scoreline their impressive start deserved.
The good start continued as Flyers successfully killed off two consecutive Dundee powerplays as Dingle’s eagerness to battle for every puck led to back-to-back high sticks and slashing penalties.
Flyers had chances to go three up in period one, Justin Fox spurning a three-on-one break by shooting straight into the body of Lakosil was the best of them.
But Flyers spoiled a near perfect opening stanza with some lapses of concentration towards the first intermission, and Justin Faryna pounced on a loose play on 19.19 to reduce the deficit.
Flyers picked up again at the start of P2 and there was an incredible escape for Stars after the restart as Dingle was denied by a sprawling Lakosil before the puck is somehow cleared from gaping net.
However, more weak defending led to Bobby Chaumont finding space in the slot to fire past David Brown for Dundee’s equaliser on 26.23.
Flyers fight started to wilt but Dingle and Danny Stewart continued to provide the team with a heart beat and Dingle’s went close with a wraparound effort - raising his arm and signalling to ref Toby Craig that puck was over the line - but no goal was given.
Stewart came up with a big goal to put Flyers back in front on 32.18, continuing a fine scoring run as he used Stephen Gunn as the decoy to shoot past Lakosil at near post.
Stewart was then sin binned for a soft tripping call, and Flyers lead was again wiped out as Mikael Lidhammer shot home on 34.42 - a clinical finish on the PP.
Clarkson then pounced on 39.56 - few teams concede as many goals as Fife in the dying seconds of periods - and a game Flyers should have been leading was suddenly slipping away.
Flyers now needed to fight for their conference lives in the third, but a clearly frustarted team produced nothing in the third period. Once again, we were watching individuals, not a team.
Dundee looked the more dangerous side and they sealed the win on 53.266 as Faryna grabbed his second of the night with a crisp one-time finish.
Flyers were handed a PP chance as Chaumont sat for hooking. A goal was required., but even a shot or two was beyond a team now playing without structure or belief.
Brown was pulled with 1.50 left and Stars went close with an empty net attempt. The clock stopped with 23 seconds left and fans started to stream out as Flyers called a time-out.
A pointless and futile excercise as by that that time, the game and almost certainly the conference title, had gone.
Flyers will look to salvage their weekend with a positive result away to Manchester Storm tonight. The match starts at 5.00 p.m.