Fife Flyers delivered the performance fans have been demanding for some time, but they still lost a key hockey game, going down 4-3 after penalty shots to Glasgow Clan.
And that result, combined with scores elsewhere, knocked them into ninth spot in the league - out of the play-off zone.
While there were many positives to take from a cracking opening game of 2020, Flyers remain a team in need of new faces in order to fully kick-start their campaign. One gutsier performance cannot mask the known issues.
They skated with great heart, passion and fight, and took the game to their opponents, but, let’s be honest, these are the sort of qualities that should figure as standard, every game, every shift, every night.
The fans certainly responded to the effort, and shared the frustration of falling short at the very final hurdle. One point for the tie in regulation time did feel like scant reward, but when you pass up so many chances then you don’t win hockey games.
Flyers’ powerplay unit finished zero for five, and that included a five on three as well as the extra man going into sudden death overtime; crucial opportunities which needed the specialist team to deliver.
All the pressure, all the composed play and good puck movement faltered because no-one could find that last touch to ring the red light.
Two of Flyers three goals also came from defencemen – another indication of a clear area for improvement on the roster.
Despite all that, they got stuck into a Clan side that brought a big, noisy support to the rink, helping to create the sort of atmosphere that hockey fans revel in. and which needs to be developed as standard every weekend.
After turning in a poor performance ina 5-1 loss in Braehead at Christmas, Flyers looked eager, determined and happy to get into the faces of Glasgow’s skaters.
Carlo Finucci and Mike Cazzola were terriers on skates, while James Livingston turned in his best game in some time, Bari McKenzie rolled up his sleeves, and James Isaacs clearly loved every shift as he gave a wholehearted performance which underlined the spirit on the bench.
Flyers started well, and the noise in the rink rose several notches in the tenth minute as Dylan Quaile tipped home a Danick Gauthier shot.
Clan levelled on a powerplay two minutes into the second period, through Rasmus Bjerrum and then got the go-ahead goal four minutes before the buzzer as they cranked up the pressure in Fife’s zone,
Bjerrum turned playmaker with a great pass off the back boards, and Jordan Heywood executed perfectly with a screamer of a shot past Adam Morrison.
Flyers needed an early response in the third, and they got it with a rare Isaacs goal – a peach of a shot from the right point which flew straifght into the net.
They were handed a golden opportunity to turn this game around with a five on three powerplay after 48 minutes, but the specialist team couldn’t convert the pressure into a goal.
That came back to haunt them when Clan, with the extra man, did just that for 3-2 – Travis Ehrhardt firing home from the right, finding spaced between the metninder and the post.
Flyers rallied again and, with the clock winding down and less than 90 seconds to play, Paul Crowder saw one shot from the blue line blockec, but his second found Carlo Finucci who delivered a precious game-tying goal.
Wigth 40 seconds left on the clock Flyers went back on the powerplay. Chad Rau was called for cross-chcking, and then Matt Stanisz saw two verbal blasts at the officisls earn him a 2+10 for abuse.
Even with the extra man in sudden death overtime, Fife couldn’t find a way through Clan’s penalty kill unit which kept a tight focus on the play.
The game went all the way to penalty shots which veered from clinically executed to the downright messy – Jordan Heywood’s woeful puck control didn’t even produce a shot, while Finucci completely missed the target.
It went to a second round of shots, with LaPorte delivering the killer goal to seal the win.
Todd Dutiaume, head coach, was pleased with what he saw on the ice.
“We played well,” he said. “We played a strong game for big portions of the game and it took late goal to tie it up. The players stayed bouyant.
“That’s what I want as a coach and what the fans want.
“It was incredibly frustrating not to score on the powerplay – at times the PP has looked pedestrian and unimaginative, but tonight we did everything but score.”
Dutiaume accepted the outcome knocked his side down to nint sport, but he noted: “We have popped out of play off place for first time in a long time -it’s important to recognise that.
“Now we have to come out fighting our corner. We can’t simply meekly accept it.”