Fife Flyers players Matt Nickerson and Kevin Regan took time to visit the Fife Free Press office yesterday (Thursday) and head of sport Matthew Elder pitched the questions ahead of a big weekend in the race for the play-offs.
Q - We’re now approaching the run into the play-offs - is this the favourite time of the season for a player?
Regan: “Yes, for sure, it’s desperate hockey for us right now for us. Every game matters, every point is big, and this is when it’s most fun to play. The crowds get into it and it’s a good atmosphere. It’s going to be battle and we’re looking forward it.”
Q - After good performances at the weekend, do you feel that the team is in play-off mode?
Nickerson: “Going down to Cardiff on that very small sheet against a physical big team I thought we performed well and it was play-off type hockey. We had that urgency we’ve been looking for and that other teams have had against us in previous weeks like Edinburgh and Dundee. Now it’s kicked in for everybody that it’s urgent times and we need points.”
Q - Bearing in mind the league standings, how important is Saturday’s game against Edinburgh Capitals?
Regan: “It’s huge. Saturday night is the biggest game of the year to this point. Edinburgh are playing good hockey and they are right behind us so it’s going to be a tough game, but we’re ready for it and looking forward to it.
“If we play like we did last week - last Saturday was probably the best we’ve played all year defensively and offensively - everything be good.”
Q - Edinburgh looked a poor outfit when they lost 9-3 on their last visit to Fife Ice Arena on January 11, but they have came back strong?
Nickerson: “I was surprised to find out they’re only a few points behind us.
“At the beginning of the year they went on a pretty bad run losing something like 10 in a row, but now they’re beating Belfast in Belfast.
“It’s not going to be easy. We know they’re playing good and will come here to play hard, but it’s not easy for teams to come into Fife so hopefully we’ll make it difficult on them too.”
Q - Flyers have only lost once at home to Edinburgh in three years but can you take past records into consideration this Saturday?
Regan: “Definitely not. Look at what they did last week going into Belfast - that says it all about the way they’ve been playing.
“We’re going to have to be ready for them. They’ll be excited and it’s a kind of no pressure hockey for them but we’ve just got to make this a tough place to play from the first minute of game and let them know that the team they played in Edinburgh two weeks ago isn’t going to be the same team.”
Q - How much did last Saturday’s shut-out and the defensive display overall give you confidence going into this final stretch?
Regan: “Honestly, it helps, it really does.
“I’ve been up and down, and I’ve had my struggles - I went through a long stretch there where I was struggling.
“So for me personally to get that shut-out is big for my confidence, but more importantly, the way they guys played in front of me, and having Matt back in the line-up, if they play like that they’re going to make it pretty easy for me.
Q - Does it also help a defenceman’s confidence to be part of a shut-out?
Nickerson: “In our eyes Kevin has been the best goalie in league over the last two years without a doubt so having him behind us gives me confidence always.
“We’ve made mistakes, and given up some breakaways, but he shuts the door - and look at him in shoot-outs too.
“I know if I give up a shot from the outside Kevin is going to eat that up.”
Q - Was there any concern, Matt, that your recent injury might have kept you out for longer?
Nickerson: “I was worried, but now I’m back, and just trying to help out.
“I tried to play but I wasn’t 100 per cent. I was struggling and it was becoming a hindrance and hurting the team so I needed some rest, I’ve got it, now we’re moving forward.”
Q - It’s Braehead away this Sunday - given the rivalry between the clubs is this a building you most enjoy winning in?
Nickerson: “Yeah for sure, I don’t think we’ve won there this year.
“It’s always a hard place to play, but it’s always a fun game with Braehead whether it’s in Fife or in Glasgow.
“It’s always intense and both teams feel that rivalry.”
Regan: “It’s going to be a big game for both of us. If they were in fourth place and didn’t have nothing to play for maybe they wouldn’t be so into it, but with them battling for the league and us battling for a play-off spot, it’s going to be a fight.
“There would be nothing better than coming out of that rink with two points on Sunday, that’s for sure.”
Q - Sunday’s game could be a potential play-off preview, depending on where teams finish, so you’ll be looking to set down a marker?
Nickerson: “Yeah, especially through there. We’ve played well there, and we’ve had some losses there too, but we need to go in there and play hard.
“It’s going top be a physical play-off style game, so we need to go in there with that urgency. They want the points to win the league, so we want to be the spoilers in that aspect too.”
Q - Braehead have been a physical side this season so is it important Flyers step up to the mark in that regard on Sunday?
Nickerson: “Oh yes. I’m always looking forward to playing Braehead. Some games get heated and those are always fun games, and I’m sure the fans enjoy that too.
“You’ve seen the rivalry over the past few years, and it’s been physical for me in some games, and that makes it fun to play them too. Bring it on, they know where I am.”