Fife Flyers rediscover missing spark in win over Cardiff Devils

Paul Crowder opens the scoring on his way to notching a hat-trick against Cardiff Devils. Pic: Fife Flyers Images
Paul Crowder opens the scoring on his way to notching a hat-trick against Cardiff Devils. Pic: Fife Flyers Images

Fife Flyers 5 Cardiff Devils 1

On a night when any win would do, Fife Flyers delivered a performance of the highest order.

After an October to forget, a new month started with 60 minutes to savour, not only for a much-needed two points, but for how the team achieved them.

Cardiff Devils have had a mixed start to the season by their standards, but with four strong lines, they remain the most formidable of opponents.

However, the defending play-off champions were second best on the night as Fife found the spark that has been missing in recent weeks.

Paul Crowder scored a hat-trick but would have been a man of the match candidate even without the goals on a night when he rediscovered his form.

The same could be said for the entire Fife bench as players fed off each other's energy and drive in a complete team performance.

The protection afforded to Adam Morrison was much better as the home side defended from the front, keeping Cardiff to the outside for much of the night.

That was particularly evident during a second period where Flyers faced 20 shots without conceding a goal, with the worst penalty killing unit in the league, statistically speaking, excelling against the top ranked powerplay.

Fife were also much more potent going forward, both five on five and on the much-maligned powerplay, attacking with a clear purpose and urgency and bagging some much-needed goals.

With the mood low both in the dressing room and in the stands, the first goal was going to be vital for both players and fans, and the team made sure both parties got a much-needed lift by striking first blood in the first shift.

Cardiff didn't help their own cause with a sloppy line change allowing Carlo Finucci to dart into the zone unchallenged and tee up Paul Crowder who forced the puck past Ben Bowns at the second attempt.

Fife carried the momentum from that goal into the opening exchanges and doubled their lead on the powerplay in the seventh minute as Kyle Just lashed a slapshot through traffic past an unsighted Bowns, and the crowd, while down on numbers, were certainly making themselves heard.

Flyers came close to getting a third before Devils hit back through Joey Haddad on their first powerplay, a quickfire wrist shot reducing the deficit on 14.16, and after a positive start, the home side had been set a mental challenge.

They responded three minutes later with James Livingston turning a Michal Gutwald shot on net over the line from the edge of the crease.

The second period was mostly one-way traffic towards the Fife net as the home side ran into penalty trouble, and it took a huge effort from both the netminder and the special team unit to see off eight minutes of relentless Devils attack, particularly the 2+2 call against Just for high sticks.

Having been on the penalty kill for much of the period, Fife were hemmed into their own zone and struggling to break out until they were handed a powerplay of their own as Mike Macnamee was called for interference on the 38-minute mark.

Flyers took just 15 seconds to make it count as Paul Crowder got his reward for screening the goalie, a rebound dropping at his feet for him to loft into the net.

The work-rate continued in period three, with some forceful forechecking restricting Devils from building attacks, and when the visitors did get into scoring positions, determined defending kept them at bay, one particular moment from Gutwald, who put his body on the line to block a Charles Linglet goalbound effort, summing up the team's efforts.

Flyers were rewarded with a fifth, and clinching goal on the 50-minute mark as Paul Crowder completed his hat-trick with another close range finish, after again being set-up by Finucci, as the pair worked in tandem throughout the night.

Whether this proves to be a turning point - time will tell - but this is certainly a performance to build from, and one that, if replicated throughout the season, will bring bigger crowds back to Fife Ice Arena.