Positive glimpses on the ice for Fife Flyers but coach Todd Dutiaume wants first win
Head coach Todd Dutiaume has extracted some positives from Fife Flyers’ three-handed roster of contests last weekend.
The boss maintains it’s a steady construction process but he hopes a discovery of form will happen soon to propel his players towards that all-important first win of the season.
The opening victory, he believes, will almost certainly help bind them closer together with a release of confidence.
Flyers went down to three defeats – home and away against Belfast on either side of a slender loss on Saturday in Dundee.
Dutiaume is more aware than anyone that the side is enduring a sticky spell but he hopes, after a few sessions back on the ice, it will end soon.
The focus is now on this weekend’s double-header against Manchester Storm – and Dutes reckons having to concentrate on only one team could be significant in Flyers’ quest.
"I have said in many conversations with folk this is a product process and we need to slowly build this team up to where we want to be,” he said.
“Positives out of the weekend were we skated better at times. We competed for 60 minutes in Dundee and in Belfast – our third game in three nights.
"We did create a little offence and certainly saw a couple of other names on the scoresheet – so there were small, tiny victories to take out of it at the start of a season that’s not had a ton of positives, but we will continue marching forward.”
Dutiaume added that it is important to keep in mind that Flyers have quite a young group and some individuals with little or no professional experience.
“The pro game is a different game, especially the level this league is at,” he said.
“Some guys are learning, trial by fire, that if you don’t bring your A game to every single shift, every single game, there are teams and players out there just waiting to pounce on that. That's a maturity thing.
"The other side of that as well is we’re a little fragile right now because of the poor starts.
"I’ve said all the time in my career – winning and losing are very contagious and, when you’re desperate for that win, or your first goal, you start to tighten up.
"You maybe don’t play with your natural instincts and you’re trying too hard in some situations.
"Ultimately, over the course of this difficult two or three-week period, we have had players in scoring opportunities and not converted.
"I’d probably be a little more concerned if we were not getting these opportunities but, in order to win hockey games, you need to convert your chances.
"We have certainly let teams off the hook in games we’ve been in up to a point.”
After slightly better fortunes in Dundee on Saturday, Dutiaume said in a post-match interview he had seen “some life and some spark in our line-up”.
“We started off a little slow in the first period and I thought probably big portions of the second were by far the best period of the night,” he said.
"We held on and had to kill off a few penalties and it looked a little scrambly but we managed to squeeze a point out.
"It’s small steps forward right now with this group and, at this point, we are trying to take positives.”
This weekend, Flyers are on the road to Manchester on Saturday before the return fixture in Kirkcaldy on Sunday.
Dutes described them as “critical home and away matches” in the league, adding that the Challenge Cup fixtures had become a platform for Flyers to try and iron out their problems rather than making the progress they’d hoped for in the competition.
"These are two crucial league matches,” he added.
“You don’t want to lose touch in the league early. You want to keep your hat in the ring, so the mindset has to sharpen.
"It’s only one team to prep for and two different-sized rinks (Manchester has an extremely small ice surface while Fife’s is one of the largest).
"There’s one team to focus on this weekend – and it’s crucial that we bring our best.
"We’re more confident in the fact we want to bring home a points tally.”
Despite some encouraging signs that confidence is on its way, nothing could really take the place of a win to help galvanise the squad, reckons the head coach.
“One or two guys got their names up on the scoresheet – I think that is great,” said Dutiaume.
"It takes a little bit of pressure off, but I think what you really need to do is get that first win over the line.
"It just brings you that closer together with the team and that can build a little bit of momentum.
"Teams in a small losing streak like this can be waiting for bad things to happen.
"We need to get that out of our minds and realise bad things will happen in the game.
"It’s how we reset and bounce back and answer anything that doesn’t go our way.”
Dutiaume had referred previously to the fact that a large number of Flyers players were off the ice for 18 months because of the lay-off enforced by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“That is not a small period of time,” he reiterated, adding that other players in the league had been similarly affected.
"It’s not an excuse, but I can say from experience that, if you take significant periods off, you can’t find your form right away.
"We hope this comes back to the players quickly. They have had three or four weeks under their belts and it is time to move forward.”