Fife Flyers at their very best back in 1999

Fife Flyers in 1999 - Russell Monteith  in action (Pic: Bill Dickman)
Fife Flyers in 1999 - Russell Monteith in action (Pic: Bill Dickman)

Twenty years ago this month Fife Flyers delivered two of their finest ever performances with two displays of scintillating ice hockey.

At the Fife Ice Arena they doused league leaders Guildford Flames by five goals to one, before heading over the Forth the following day to inflict some capital punishment by crushing the Edinburgh Capitals 6-1.

Russel Monteith scores during the 5-1 win over Guildford Flames in November 1999.

Russel Monteith scores during the 5-1 win over Guildford Flames in November 1999.

The results saw the Flyers leapfrog the Edinburgh side to move up to fourth in the British National League on 16 points, just four points behind Guildford, but crucially with two games in hand.

On Saturday, November 6, 1999 1364 home fans in watched on as the Flames came to Kirkcaldy and left on the end of a heavy defeat.

The FFP reported: “Fife Flyers underlined their title credentials with a stunning display at the Ice Arena last Saturday to which league leaders Guildford simply had no answer.

“Assistant coach Chic Cottrell later described the performance as ”the best team display I have ever seen in my time here”, and his obvious delight at the result was fully understandable the thrilled home crowd were equally ecstatic after being treated to 60 minutes of Flyers hockey at its best.

“The 5-1 score barely does justice to Fife’s superiority and if it hadn’t been for on-form netminder Jamie Organ and some rather wasteful finishing, especially on the powerplay, the margin of Victory could have been‘ even greater.

“As it was, the result Will have sent out a warning that Flyers mean business this season and if they can maintain this level of performance consistently through the coming months then they are going to be there or thereabouts when the honours are handed out.

“And that’s not a case of getting carried away because of one game, it was the manner in which the game was won that was most impressive and every player did their bit.

“It was close and nervy for a while, mind you, and with the score finely poised at 2-1 entering the final 10 minutes, it could have gone either way at that point.

“But had Flames taken anything from the match it would have been a travesty as they were soundly beaten and frankly didn’t look like a team who had won nine of their opening 10 league games indeed, winless Milton Keynes put on a better show the previous week.

“Guildford were strangely lethargic and disjointed and surprisingly for 21 Stan Marple team, very indisciplined.

“This ultimately cost them dear and the underlying nastiness finally exploded two minutes from time when Flames captain Karry Biette, once a team-mate of Todd Dutiaume’s at Swindon and yet another ex-Superleaguer who looked anything but top class, brutally crosschecked Ted Russell and only succeeded in landing himself a 5+game penalty

“It was perhaps easy to understand the visitors’ frustrations because they must have realised by then that they were second best as Flyers overcame adversity to claim the points.

“Already without the injured Andy Samuel and David Smith, Flyers lost starting goalie Stephen Murphy at 32. 48 when a fearsome slapshot from Barclay Pearce smacked off his helmet and left the youngster nursing a very sore head and a few stitches in the wound.

“Ricky Grubb took over and simply picked up where Murphy left off as Fife regrouped and continued to play their patient, measured game.

“The first of four minor penalties to Derek Decosty saw Flyers take the lead at 6 ()9 when the hugely impressive Russell Monteith knocked home from in front of the net but Flyers were unable to extend their lead, despite outshooting Flames 14-5 in the period.

“Both netminders made some big saves, Organ in particular keeping his side in touch during the second period but finally, with Pete Kasowski in the box for slashing, a quick passing break saw John Haig feed Mark Morrison for an excellent second goal from Flyers at 37.43.

“A rather cheap slashing call on Frank Morris gave Flames a powerplay shortly before the break and they took advantage, Grubb left helpless as Kasowski’s shot from the point deflected past him.

“That set up an intriguing final 20 minutes and for a short spell Guildford put some pressure on the home net.

“But they couldn’t find an equaliser and Flyers eventually got the insurance goal at 51.16 when a sublime pass from Dutiaume from behind the net was perfect for Monteith to ram in his second.

“Flames seemed to lose heart after that and a superbly nonchalant finish by Dean Edmiston at 56.24 sent the crowd wild and clinched the win.

“After Biette’s moment of foolishness, Flyers played the final two and a half minutes on the powerplay and they put the icing on the cake with a fifth 35 seconds from the buzzer, Steven King getting the final touch after a scramble in front of the net.

“This was a game to warm the cockles on a bitterly cold night and all those fans who stayed away in preference to the annual nonsense of bonfire displays really missed out as there were enough fireworks inside the arena to keep everyone happy.”

Just 24 hours later on Sunday night and the Flyers went one goal better at Murrayfield Ice Rink against the Edinburgh Capitals, the team which had risen from the ashes of the Fife side’s deadly rivals, Murrayfield Racers.

A large Flyers contingent made up a large part of the support of just 600 and every one of them would have made the journey back to Fife with a smile on their face and wondering whether this could be Flyers’ year for the title.

The FFP’s Gordon Holmes said: “A phantom delay on the Forth Road Bridge which caused a two-mile tailback saw many Fife fans turn up late for the face-off in Murrayfield last Sunday, but by the end of this game it must have been the home support who were wishing they had missed out.

“After their superb win over Guildford the previous night, the confidence in the Fife camp was running high and they bossed this match from the word go, dominating their hosts to such an extent that many of the Capitals’ players had given up long before the end.

“This was easily the most convincing win Flyers have enjoyed over their old rivals this season and its foundations were laid in an awesome first period when the speed and accuracy of the Fife counter-attacks were simply too much for Edinburgh to handle.

“Still missing the injured Samuel and Smith, and with Stephen Murphy sitting it out after his head knock, Flyers picked up where they had left off against Flames and after more or loss sealing the victory in the opening 20 minutes, played well within themselves for the remainder of the game, concentrating on keeping Capitals out, rather than hammering in a few more goals, which they certainly looked capable of doing.

“Capitals are something of an enigma at the moment and while they continue to pick up some decent results to consolidate their mid-table position, they lack the overall quality and perhaps belief, to turn them into contenders.

“Quality is one thing Flyers have in abundance, from two excellent British netminders to three potent lines, all capable of causing damage to the opposition.

“And it was the ever-willing and hardworking third line that got the puck rolling in this game at 2.04, Andy Finlay finishing off after good play from Gary Wishart and Frank Morris.

“Shortly after Steven King picked up a slashing minor but instead of being forced back to defend the powerplay, Flyers actually created a few chances shorthanded, Dean Edmiston missing a one-on-one before John Haig rifled the puck past John Finnie at 4.43.

“Capitals tried to hit back but found Ricky Grubb in top form and at 7.36 it was 3-0, Todd Dutiaume perfectly placed to knock home a rebound from a Ted Russell shot.

“That was enough for Finnie and after conceding three goals from just five shots he departed the scene to be replaced by Matt Davidge much to the delight of the ever sympathetic Fife fans!

“A tripping penalty on Iain Robertson led to Flyers’ fourth goal at 11.15 When Morris blasted one of his trademark shots into the net before Davidge could react and, by the end of the first period, the game was as good as won.

“Finnie returned for the second period but the God of hockey has a wicked sense of humour and Flyers took just 16 seconds to make it 5-0, Russell Monteith finishing brilliantly from Dutiaume’s pass.

“Thereafter, Flyers were content to protect what they had but conceded a sloppy goal at 23.21 when Alan Hough was allowed too much space to skate in on the net and beat Grubb from a tight angle.

“Any hopes amongst the home crowd of a comeback were soon snuffed out and, with Flyers cruising, certain of the Caps more experienced players decided to try and rough things up a bit and did so by picking on the Fife youngsters, who it has to be said are more than capable of looking after themselves

“Robertson had a go at Daryl Venters, as did Neil Abel later, while captain Jason Heywood and player-coach Angelo Catenaro spent more time looking for trouble than trying to help their team and ended up just making themselves look foolish not for the first time this season.

“The only goal of the final period came on the powerplay at 47.55 and it was the goal of the game as Flyers moved the puck well in the Caps’ zone before Dutiaume’s pass to the far post was superbly finished by Monteith.

“This was another excellent all-round team performance from Flyers to thrill the large travelling support and with this level of consistency, anything is possible this season.”