Fife Flyers duo ready to face former club in season opener

Defending the fort: Fife Flyers D-men Michal Gutwald and Scott Aarssen at Ravenscraig Castle ahead of the match against Glasgow Clan this Saturday.  Pic: Fife Photo Agency
Defending the fort: Fife Flyers D-men Michal Gutwald and Scott Aarssen at Ravenscraig Castle ahead of the match against Glasgow Clan this Saturday. Pic: Fife Photo Agency

The opening weekend of the new ice hockey season will pit two Fife Flyers defencemen against their former club.

Both Michal Gutwald and Scott Aarssen are looking forward to looking horns with Glasgow Clan, now coached by Zack Fitzgerald, in the Challenge Cup opener on Saturday.

For Gutwald, who made the switch to Fife over the summer after being released from Clan at the end of last season, there is extra motivation.

“Obviously I just don’t want to lose to them,” he said.

“I want to beat them every time - that will be my goal this season.

“This and to win the conference – I think that’s important.”

Gutwald has experienced the rivalry as an opposition player over the past two years and is looking forward to having the home crowd behind him at Fife Ice Arena on Saturday.

“I think no team likes to go here,” he said.

“It’s tough to play in this rink, and the fans are going to let you know you’re not welcome here.

“I’m going to experience it from the other side now so it’s going to be better.”

Aarssen, meanwhile, is about to embark on his second season with Fife, and having played alongside Fitzgerald at both Glasgow and Sheffield, he is expecting a tough opener, despite Clan twice losing heavily to Dundee Stars in their Challenge Cup openers last weekend.

“Zack was always a physical presence, a very passionate guy on and off the ice, and a great leader,” he said.

“I think they’re going to have a composed team, and one that plays hard and physical - that’s to be expected.

“They’ve got a lot of veteran players over there so they will know how to get things done and how to bounce back from a bad weekend.

“No one likes to lose two games in row on the weekend, let alone giving up that many goals, so it’s going to give them extra motivation to come play us on Saturday.

“They’ll be ready - and we’ll be ready as well.

“It’s always nice to start the year against a big rival and to start at home in front of our own fans and really get the old barn rocking again.”

Aarssen believes Fife are well prepared for the season ahead after a two-week training camp featuring fixtures against both Danish and German opposition.

“We’ve been working hard in the gym and on the ice, and in the four games I thought we did fairly well,” he said.

“There are things we need to work on, but also a lot of positives.

“Getting four more guys injected into the line-up this coming weekend is going to make a big difference, not just in terms of skill and size, but it also helps with the legs for some of us too.

“It’s on ourselves to be in shape but it’s always a help when you have an extra line or an extra guy to fill in for you when you need a quick breather.

“I’m looking forward to meeting the new guys and seeing some familiar faces coming back.

“It’s going to be a great feeling in the room when everyone is finally together and we all start to gel even more.”

Having thoroughly enjoyed his first season in Fife, Aarssen revealed it was an easy decision to return for him and his family.

“I enjoyed my time tremendously last year, and jumped at the opportunity as soon as they asked me to come back,” he said.

And having spent some time at the top of the EIHL last season, the 31-year-old Canadian is confident the team can push for silverware this year.

“We were really competitive last year and some untimely and unfortunate injuries might have cost us a bit,” he said.

“This year, although it’s pretty early to start looking ahead, I think we have a very strong group of guys, and character guys as well.

“We can achieve everything this year if we put our minds to it.

“We have the group to do that, not only physically but mentally as well.

“We’re going to have a really good shot this year at getting one or maybe a couple of trophies if we stay healthy, committed, and stick to the game plan throughout the year.”