Fife Flyers can clinch their first piece of Elite League silverware this weekend, but it will take a mammoth effort over three games in three nights.
The race for the Gardiner Conference reaches crunch time with a trip to Breahead Clan tonight (Friday) followed by a double-header against Dundee Stars, home and away, on Saturday and Sunday.
Everything hinges on tonight’s game in Braehead Arena, where failure to claim maxumim points will put the champagne on ice for another week.
However, if Flyers can claim a regulation win, they would require three more points from the Dundee games to wrap up their first conference title.
An overtime win in Braehead would still allow Flyers to seal the championship at Dundee Ice Arena on Sunday, providing they take the full six points from the weekend.
That will be a tall order, particularly with key players Russ Moyer and Evan Bloodoff fighting to be fit, but for a team that has consistently delivered throughout the season, anything is possible.
“It’s in our hands,” said head coach Todd Dutiaume.
“Up until this point we have had a fantastic record against Braehead, and Friday would go a long way to getting us over the line.
“Then we’re back-to-back against Dundee, who we have four more times this season, so we’re going to need to beat them, and probably our best chance is on home ice on Saturday night.
“Every year up til now I’ve said we want to bring a trophy to Fife, but all we’ve said this year from the start is we want to play good hockey each week and see where we end up.
“If we started that way it’s important to finish that way.
“I’d love to see these guys rewarded for their hard work over the course of the season with a trophy, and if that happens it will be well deserved, but we still have a lot of work to do.”
Dutiaume admitted that he will not be mentioning any title talk in the team briefings in the build-up to the weekend games.
“No – that puts a huge target on a weekend and you start thinking big picture,” he said.
“If something goes wrong on Friday night you start panicking then the weekend tumbleweeds down.
“We’re only focused on going into the game on Friday against our closest competitors in the table, and winning that hockey game. Then we’ll bring on Saturday night.
“We’ll just continue to take it one game at a time like we always have. It’s been a recipe that has worked well for us, and hopefully we’ll have continued success with it.”
Flyers are expecting to be able to include Danick Gauthier in the squad after the forward was dimissed from the Edinburgh match on Sunday on a 5+Game major penalty for checking to the head.
There has been no announcement from DOPs, but after reviewing video footage, Flyers were confident that the player would not be handed a suspension from the league’s disciplinary body.
This weekend will be Flyers second consecutive three-in-three, but Dutiaume insists his players can cope with the busy schedule.
“I’m really going to shy away from making excuses,” he said.
“We’ve known the schedule since the start of the year so we’re really paring back on guys off ice schedules and training sessions are getting shorter.
“It’s all about resting and taking care of their bodies.
“We’re only here for another six weeks of the regular season and it’s the business end so I’m happy to pare back, but guys need to bring it on the weekend and recover during the week.”
Captain Moyer skated with the team on Tuesday and could hand the team a huge boost by returning on Friday, although the extent of Bloodoff’s injury was still unknown as we went to press.
Brady Ramsay remains in Canada attending to family matters, but Flyers are set to hand a debut to new signing Dan Correale.