Fife Flyers 2 Belfast Giants 4
Fife Flyers slipped below the standards set this season in their defeat to Belfast Giants last night.
While last Sunday's defeat to Cardiff Devils saw the team applauded off the ice, this time there was little admiration for a subpar performance, from either the head coach or a frustrated home crowd.
"It's a bit of a head-scratcher because I was pretty appalled by our performance in the first and second period," Todd Dutiaume said.
"It was our only game of the weekend, and they had been prepped for that all week.
"Without changing anything we became the dominant team in the third period so arguably it comes down to players making a decision."
Flyers made a decent stab at mounting a comeback after falling three goals behind but they left themselves with too much to do.
Giants looked the more dynamic side in the early stages but after Flyers superbly killed a lengthy five-on-three penalty, the chance was there to shift momentum.
However, the loss of a soft goal on 11.29 put paid to that notion as John Kurtz dumped the puck on net from mid-ice and it took an unfortunate bounce off the ice, and flew past netminder Andy Iles in off his post.
Giants doubled their lead two minutes later as a turnover on their blueline saw them break at speed, and after Jim Vandermeer's initial shot had been saved, the puck broke loose and Darcy Murphy was first to react to stab it over the line.
Flyers had a superb chance to halve the deficit before the intermission with a three-on-one attack, but Carlo Finucci ignored his two supporting team mates to go for goal, and Jackson Whistle's save drew groans of disapproval from the home crowd.
If the first period was disappointing, the second period was arguably the worst 20 minutes the team has produced on home ice this season.
Flyers flirted with disaster straight from face-off, constantly giving away pucks in their own end, and were finally punished for their mistakes on 24.34 when Jim Jorgensen fresh-aired an attempted pass, allowing Giants to set up an attack that Colin Shields finished for 0-3.
Back-to-back powerplays gave Flyers a chance to kick-start their performance, as well as show some evidence of improvement from the woeful PP efforts that cost them against Devils the previous week.
But after failing to make either count, and struggling to keep the puck in the Giants zone for any length of time, the home fans showed their frustration with boos - the first team this team has felt the wrath of the Fife crowd.
"We have a harsh crowd that can get on your back, but tonight I think they responded like they should to the way we were playing in the first and second period," Dutiaume said.
Fife had barely threatened but a goal out of nothing three minutes from the end of P2 gave them a lifeline as Danick Gauthier sent an unstoppable effort past Whistle that bounced into the net and back out again - at least according to referee Pavel Halas - as Giants argued that the puck had hit the crossbar. Truthfully, it was hard to tell.
Either way, Flyers were back in the game, and they were a different animal in the third, pushing Giants back and playing on the front foot.
Ian Young pulled the home side back to within a goal on 46.45 with a composed finish after superb work from himself and Chase Schaber to get in behind the Giants defence, and it was almost lift off when Evan Bloodoff raced clear while Fife were short-handed only to lift the puck over the bar.
Flyers powerplay woes continued, though, as they sent out four skaters instead of five, which got the crowd riled again, and only the post prevented them from falling 4-2 behind when Shields somehow contrived to miss an open net.
For the third home match in a row, Flyers withdrew Iles in the hope that a sixth skater would provide an equaliser and a route into overtime, but the gamble back-fired as Cole Jarrett's clearance off the plexi slid all the way down the ice and straight into the middle of the empty net.
Flyers have built a good reputation so far this season, but that won't last if they allow such inconsistency to creep in. Let this be their wake-up call.