Play-off heartbreak for Fife Flyers after shut-out defeat to Nottingham Panthers

Danick Gauthier in action for Fife Flyers in the play-off quarter-final second leg against Nottingham Panthers. Pic: Josh Dixon
Danick Gauthier in action for Fife Flyers in the play-off quarter-final second leg against Nottingham Panthers. Pic: Josh Dixon

Nottingham Panthers 3 (6) Fife Flyers 0 (3)

In the end the margin of defeat was three goals, but that does not tell the true story of Fife Flyers' valiant play-off efforts as they narrowly lost out to Nottingham Panthers.

Two empty netters in the closing two minutes of this quarter-final second leg proved the difference as the short-benched Kirkcaldy side went to the wire in their attempts to salvage the tie.

After a pulsating 3-3 draw in Kirkcaldy the previous night, it was a much tighter affair at the Motorpoint Arena as a solitary strike from Dylan Richard in the fifth minute gave Panthers a slender aggregate advantage, which in the end proved to be just enough.

With injury, illness and suspension leaving them short on numbers, and a few more playing through the pain barrier, Flyers did remarkably well to compete so closely over two legs with a well-resourced Panthers side, but on the night, the one goal they needed was just beyond them.

With their season at stake, the decision to withdraw netminder Shane Owen with two minutes remaining was a gamble worth taking, but the six skaters couldn't keep the puck long enough to mount sustained pressure, and Richard found the empty net to seal Flyers' fate.

The game was over, but Flyers still refused to accept their fate and the withdrawal of Owen again for another six-on-five advantage allowed Panthers to complete a 3-0 victory, 6-3 on aggregate, with Robert Farmer scoring the second empty netter to send his side into finals weekend, and leave Fife dejected.

"I don't think anyone will question that those guys didn't leave every ounce on the ice this weekend," said head coach Todd Dutiaume. "I'm extremely proud of them.

"They were always going to be up against it but they battled right to the end. I feel incredibly bad for them because I know how much they wanted it.

"But I have to give credit to Nottingham, they played the most disciplined game I've seen from them this season."