Fife Flyers underlined how much the team has improved by skating to a deserved 4-1 victory over the very side which swept them out of the play-off finals weekend just a few months ago.
A third game in three nights on the road took its toll on Nottingham Panthers, but they were a side that could roll four lines and six defencemen, and they made Fife work for the win.
And work, they did.
In the tightest of games they created the better chances, and looked very much like a team clicking into a promising groove very early in the new season.
Once again they saw some huge contributions across the bench.
Ryan Dingle was immense, while Shane Owen’s saves at key moments sucked the life out of Panthers just when they started to look lively, and Justin Fox again delivered the sort of hustling performance he promised when he resigned in summer.
Fox got the killer third goal just nine minutes from time; fitting reward after missing two glorious chances earlier on.
The opening period ended goal-less – shots on goal of 8/5 in Fife’s favour underlined how few chances were created.
Fox had a glorious opening on an eighth minute power play as he got in behind the defence to go one on one with netminder Jindrich Pacl who made a vital block.
Flyers kept their work rate high in the middle period which edged past the halfway mark still at 0-0.
The breakthrough finally came at 33:08 just after Fife couldn’t crack Panthers’ penalty killing unit, with Chase Schaber netting off assists to Sebastien Thinel and Shayne Stockton.
Panthers levelled just 1:14 into the third as Owen sent a shot spiralling out to his right, the defence didn’t mop up the rebound, and Jeff Brown, son of Fife legend Danny, netted the rebound.
With 44 minutes played, Fox again saw a golden chance go begging before Flyers grabbed the lead with a well-worked goal.
Schaber hustled superbly on the boards behind the net, James Isaacs made his move from the blue line with perfect timing to collect the pass, and the rebound from his shot was turned home by livewire Matt Sisca, who went on to take the home MoM award.
With both teams down to four skaters, and nine minutes left on the clock, Fox delivered the goal which, effectively, sealed the win. He let fly, saw Pacl parry his shot and kept going to bury the rebound.
Panthers made several attempts to pull their netminder for a last-gasp rally, and when he finally got to the bench, he could only watch helplessly as Dingle hit the empty net for a fine 4-1 win.