Turning point for Fife Flyers as Christmas looms?

Todd Dutiaume calls for a penalty shot - Caps v Flyers - Hogmanay 2014
Todd Dutiaume calls for a penalty shot - Caps v Flyers - Hogmanay 2014

Todd Dutiuame can pinpoint the moment he felt his team was starting to turn a corner.

A road trip to Belfast the night after losing poorly on home ice to Giants yielded a second defeat, but it was the performance and attitude which stood out.

Fife Flyers EIHL play-off finals weekend Nottingham April 2014'Todd Dutiaume (left) on the bench with Jim Watson'Credit: Steve Gunn

Fife Flyers EIHL play-off finals weekend Nottingham April 2014'Todd Dutiaume (left) on the bench with Jim Watson'Credit: Steve Gunn

For a club grappling with inconsistency and faltering firepower, and under pressure from its own fan base, it was in the Odyssey Arena that Fife Flyers started to knit together.

Dutiaume described it as ‘‘a big moment’’ explaining: ‘‘We sat down and had a frank discussion as hockey players. It was a reminder that sometimes that doing too much, and trying to do too much, is the wrong way.

‘‘We were allowing teams to push us around a bit. We were pushed to the outsides.

‘‘At Belfast that night it came together. We’d put in an embarrassing performance and home to them, but we went there and we were a completely different hockey club. We lost the game for sure, but it was the best we’d played in a couple of weeks.

‘‘I firmly believe that since that happened we’ve put in much better performances.’’

He can reel them off - two wins over Dundee, home and away, a win over Braehead, and now victory over Nottingham.

There have been losses too - defeat in Sheffield and then again at home to the Steelers - but Dutiaume remains confident he has a better team, a stronger team and a more focussed team than he had last season.

‘‘We lost in Sheffield but we outshot them - we never do that down there - and at home we had a good opening period. They got two powerplay goals and that cost us, because they then went about trapping it up in the third. They’re a smart hockey club and very good at closing games.’’

Sunday’s victory over Panthers took Flyers up to seventh in the standings, leapfrogging Edinburgh with games in hand - and hot on the heels of Dundee, also with games to the good. They are now five points behind Braehead in sixth spot.

With a host of conference games planned across the festive period, Flyers have a good opportunity to make the progress fans expect.

That would set them up for a strong push for a solid play-off place in the early months of 2016.

For Dutiaume, it’s the small things that are starting to become evident in games - guys blocking shots, laying their bodies on the line, getting under the skin of other team’s aggressors and enforcers and letting them take the misconduct penalties.

If Sunday against Panthers sets the baseline for the games ahead then Flyers have a good chance of making progress, but with the win comes a perspective.

‘‘We didn’t win the league on Saturday - we won a hockey game, but with the type of hockey wee want to play night in night out.’’

The return to the scoresheet of both Jeff Lee and TJ Caig was overdue - Flyers’ lack of production in recent weeks has hindered their game.

For Dutiuame, goal droughts can play mind games with players.

‘‘As a player - and I’ve been there - it starts to dominate your thought process, but if you keep doing the right things then it will come good again.

‘‘Look at Ryan Dingle. His workrate is exceptional. He covers the ice and he’s out there hunting guys down. He’s also first to the net.

‘‘Right now he’s shooting at the goalies, but all it takes is one puck to hit the net, and everything clicks, and you start to wonder why you were so worried in the first place.’’

Their Christmas schedule holds one of the keys to the second half of the season.

Emerge with a clutch of points - starting with four from Manchester and Dundee this weekend - and they can put together the run of results that can establish them firmly in mid table.

As Ryan Dingle put it - ‘‘eliminate the rollercoaster ride, and manage the ups and downs better.’’

Flyers have won two of their three games against newcomers Manchester - home and away - while their record against a free-scoring Dundee is good; they lead the series 4-2.

The teams meet again before mid January, with Edinburgh and Braehead in between.

The club’s goals of the play-offs and shooting for the Challenge Cup could be realigned - or redefined - but the next few weeks.