FIFE Flyers forward Andy Samuel dedicated Tuesday night’s win to his coach, work colleague and close friend, Todd Dutiaume.
Samuel helped Flyers end a 13-game losing streak with the 4-2 win over Hull Stingrays, but his thoughts afterwards were with the absent player-coach, who is still coming to terms with the sudden and tragic death of his wife Kelly a fortnight ago.
“In my whole hockey career there’s nothing that could happen that will be worse than that,” Samuel said. “It puts hockey into perspective – it takes a back seat when something like that happens.
“We’re all professionals, but it’s not something you can forget, it’s in your mind so much.
“It’s been tough for everybody, most importantly for Todd, but he’s had great support from the team and from work colleagues.
“He’s got so much going on right now, but he’s still a hockey player, and I’m sure it will lift him a bit knowing that we’ve got a win.”
Samuel has not only been a team mate of Dutiaume’s for more than a decade, they also work together at the Fife Fire and Rescue Service.
“I still remember the first training session when Todd came here,” he said. “We’re probably the only two still playing from then.
“I’ve known him for a long time, and I can’t imagine what he’s gone through in the last few weeks.”
Tuesday’s win came too late to salvage Flyers’ play-off bid, but it brought some much-needed cheer back to the rink after a difficult few weeks.
“We’re relieved to get a win at last,” Samuel added.
“We’ve been so close and worked so hard over the last few weeks and never got anything to show for it.
“We haven’t been getting the bounces or the breaks, but on Tuesday we stuck together and got the win in the third period.
“It’s great for the team, especially with what’s happened over the last couple of weeks.”
Samuel admitted, however, that there is disappointment at the failure to finish in the top eight.
“We had belief all along – and Todd had so much belief in us that we’d get there – but it’s games where we’ve lost by the odd-goal, and had the odd decision go against us, that’s turned it for us.
“Looking back at the season, the injuries we’ve had and the lack of imports at the start, there are certain reasons why we’ve not made the play-offs.
“As disappointed as we are, it’s been a learning curve for so many people this season. We just have to play as well as we can for the last few games.
“There’s a lot of pride in the dressing room so we’re not just going to lay down for the last couple of weeks.”
Samuel first season as an Elite League player has saw him amass 55 appearances, one goal and eight assists, with just four games left to play.
“I’ve really enjoyed it looking back over the season, I’ve no regrets at all,” he said. “It’s great to see good hockey back in Fife again.
“The support we’ve had in the rink some nights has been unbelievable.
“The atmosphere we had years ago is back, and I’ve never known a season of so many ups and downs.”