Three Scottish ice hockey teams hold their nerve for final day showdowns in Elite League

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You could not have scripted a more exciting finale with such fine margins. Five teams, separated by just three points, chasing three play off spots on the very last weekend of the season.

The old marketing slogan “we’ll give you a seat but you’ll only need the edge” sums up a weekend of excitement and nervous tension for ice hockey fans across Scotland as the country’s three pro teams go to the wire.

Incredibly, Fife Flyers, Dundee Stars and Glasgow Clan are all tied on the same number of points with the same two games to play - factor in Coventry Blaze, one point adrift, and Nottingham Panthers three behind, and the race is simply too close to call. The season will end for two teams on Sunday. How they are eventually determined may have the sport’s statisticians taking a deep dive into into the league’s separation criteria taking in wins, goals, head to heads and much more.

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Tom Coolen, Fife Flyers’ head coach, has spent a lifetime in the sport - from the NHL to the world championships and Winter Olympics - and even he admits this is new to him. “It is tremendous for the fans - this is what it is all about,” he said. “This is what you build teams for.”

Collin Shirley and Max Humitz celebrate a Fife Flyers goal (Pic: Derek Young)Collin Shirley and Max Humitz celebrate a Fife Flyers goal (Pic: Derek Young)
Collin Shirley and Max Humitz celebrate a Fife Flyers goal (Pic: Derek Young)

His hard-working, entertaining team has reignited a buzz around Fife Ice Arena - the oldest in the UK - and they are now just two games away from making their first play-off appearance since 2018. Standing in their way are Dundee Stars. The teams meet in Tayside on Saturday, and Kirkcaldy on Sunday with both games racing towards being complete sell-outs; a total of some 5000 fans and a wall of noise.

Flyers need three points to kill off all the mathematical permutations and secure a top eight spot. Ideally, they are shooting for seventh and a quarter-final showdown with Cardiff Devils, but how the chips are dealt won’t be fully known until the final buzzer on Sunday.

Despite the intensity of the pressure, the coach is relishing the challenge, and the prospect of making his mark in his first season British ice hockey.

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Coolen admitted: “The players are enjoying it. They are on a roll, playing well, and they are having fun.This is all about confidence - and they are confident and keen. They are determined, and when you have a sell out crowd on Sunday that is just fantastic”

While Flyers and Stars go head to head, Glasgow Clan host Guildford Flames on Saturday before making the long journey face Cardiff Devils on Sunday.

The Renfrew-based side have played to bumper crowds all season despite some poor results and a slide down the standings into eighth spot. Clan have won just twice in their last seven outings, including a big 7-1 loss at the hands of Flames.

But, on the eve of the last weekend of the regular season, all three Scottish teams are on course for the play-offs which would be a huge boost for the sport north of the border. Every single point is still precious, and each team is operating on the finest of margins.

Perhaps crucially, Flyers, Clan and Stars remain one precious point ahead of a Coventry side in freefall. They only need to hold their nerve to get across the finishing line.

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