It’s what happens after Christmas that matters.
When a new year dawns, ice hockey players snap into play-off mode.
And the closer those post-season games get, the more the intensity is racked up.
Rick Pinkston ‘s overtime goal against Sheffield Steelers could yet be a huge step on Fife Flyers’ journey to grab the best play-off spot available and then shoot for a spot at the finals weekend in Nottingham.
After defeat in Sheffield the night before, the team had to come up with a big win to keep the pressure on, and, while it went to the wire, it was a moment that may be pivotal.
After playing through the pain barrier with an injury, Pinkston is now soaking up the ice time, leading the blueline – and having fun.
It was certainly much harder to skate freely when hurt, and with some fans on his back too – head coach Todd Dutiaume said more than once that few people rinskide had any idea what the player went through simply to lace up and play.
But ice hockey season’s are long and challenging, and Pinkston has been through enough of them to know that the play-offs really come alive if teams click into a groove across February and into March, and everyone steps into the zone.
Sunday’s win – huge in importance – was key for everyone in the dressing-room, and it showed how much it meant as Pinkston led the celebrations after firing home from a pass from Carlo Finucci.
“I was elated to get the goal,” he said, “but, at that point I couldn’t have cared less who scored. We just wanted the win.”
It was, he said a “redemption game” coming just 24 hours after a disappointing loss in Sheffield in front of almost 9000 fans.
Steelers were fighting to keep their own season alive – 2018-19 is their annus horribilis – and knew Flyers’ games in hand over them could alter the entire play-off race. Their 4-1 victory was as huge as Flyers’ performance was poor.
“We were flat,” said Pinkston. “We didn’t do ourselves any justice so, in that sense, Sunday was redemption game.”
At this stage of the season, players know they have to skate through the pain barrier, lace up when they are hurt and eat up extra minutes on the ice.
The weekend schedule takes Flyers on the road to Milton Keynes - Lightning are already out of the play-offs- and Coventry one of six teams locked in battle for four qualifying berths. Right now , Blaze are on the wrong side of the red line.
“The extra tice time is a tall task, but we know the situation, but I am sure anyone in the room will tell you everyone steps up to the plate, “ said Pinkton. “I played alot of minutes but so did everyone else, and we had Bari McKenzie back there doing a hell of a job helping out.
“We’re trending in the right direction, and we’ve cleaned up lot of areas of our game which needed work– if we keep going in this direction it will be good.
“We have shown we can play any team in the league – the key is bringing our game every night.”