It's all about the play-offs for Fife Flyers
Fife Flyers hit the road in search of points to secure the highest possible league finish and set them up for the play-offs.
The club travel to Belfast on Saturday and Dundee on Sunday before then preparing for a rare midweek double header next Tuesday and Wednesday.
With the league season in its final weeks, the aim is to get back on a winning run and hitting the play-offs with momentum.
The weekend is unlikely to bring any change to the club’s injury situation with netminder Andy Iles, defenceman Ian Young and key forward Evan Bloodoff still sidelined.
Todd Dutiaume, head coach, admitted their absence was being felt, but he is still pushing for the best finish possible.
‘’Time is closing down fast until the end of the season,’’ he said. ‘’We cannot switch on and just expect it to go back on again with the games we have.
‘’Our message to the players is how important a high finishing position is for the play-offs.
“We have struggled with some serious injuries, but there are glimmers of light - we played well at Manchester and came out on the wrong end of a 3-2 result.
‘’And we have six 20-plus goalscorers in the line-up so there is enough offence. We need to have the confidence to go out and play the game right both ways.’’
Flyers need to take points from the weekend to stay on course for a top four finish.
They are currently two points behind third-placed Belfast, making Saturday’s trip across the Irish Sea even more important.
Hopes of vying for the runners-up spot from Manchester have receded after defeat in Altrincham on Saturday, but the fact Fife are still flying high in the standings underlines that this will be their most successful EIHL season to date.
But there is still work to be done to ensure they hit that benchmark.
Flyers travel on Saturday to take on a Giants side they have found a tough nut to crack at times this season, particularly on the road, so a win would be the perfect set up for the run-in.
They then return in the early hours of Sunday with limited time to prepare to travel to Dundee to face a Stars outfit which is throwing everything into its bid to win the three-way fight for the final play-off spot.
Omar Pacha’s team skated to victory in Kirkcaldy lasy Friday, and will be keen to complete back to back wins, but the points remain just as precious to Flyers as the post-season knockout competition starts to loom large on the horizon.
‘’They are in a dogfight for that play-off spot and are playing good hockey,’’ said Dutiaume, ‘’but when we last went there, it was to clinch the conference, so we have had success there too.
‘’After the league season ends, you cannot afford to lose a game at all,’’ said Dutiaume. ‘’You need to win four in a row to get through the quarter-finals and into the final.
‘As a hockey club, we are more than capable of doing that. ‘’
Flyers’ punishing schedule rolls into next week with a road trip to Nottingham on Tuesday, returning home to play Sheffield Steelers 24 hours later.
The English sides have not had their troubles to seek this season, both falling down the standings on the back of some woefully inconsistent form and well out of the league title race.
Expectation levels among Panthers and Steelers’ fans are much higher, and both sides will be looking to make the finals weekend.
To miss out on that as well would be deemed unthinkable, making them both dangerous opponents in the final days of the 21017-18 league campaign.