Tempers flare as Fife Flyers complete four-point weekend with OT win over Nottingham Panthers
Fife Flyers 4 Nottingham Panthers 3 (OT)
Fresh from Saturday’s penalty shots win over the Guildford Flames and with a play-off place secured, Fife Flyers played host to the Nottingham Panthers for the second game of their home double-header weekend.
It was the penultimate home league fixture for Flyers, and they made all the early running in this encounter and they took the lead on 6.37 through Paul Crowder's pinpoint finish from Carlo Finucci’s neat pass.
Fife weren’t giving Nottingham any time to settle into the game, and soon the second goal followed with Marcus Basara slotting past Michael Garnett after some good work from Craig Moore at 11.15.
The away side had to get themselves back into this contest, and they did just that just over two minutes after conceding their second goal, when Ollie Betteridge rifled beyond Shane Owen at 13.43.
Panthers went in search of an equaliser as they applied pressure on the Fife net, but it was the home side who restored their two-goal lead when Carlo Finucci snuck in to poke over the line at 18.08.
Panthers coach Rick Strachan responded by pulling Garnett in the immediate aftermath of the third goal, replacing him with back-up Patrick Munson as he tried to settle his visibly rattled charges down.
The visitors began the second period on the powerplay from Basara’s interference call late in the first, and they once again reduced Flyers two-goal lead after Jon Rheault tipped high over Shane Owen’s shoulder from Dylan Richard’s shot through heavy traffic on 21.12.
The tension was palpable on the ice, and tempers finally boiled over when Brett Bulmer and Stephen Lee dropped the gloves, with Bulmer assessed 2+2 for his part in the fracas, and the visitors took full advantage to level on the half-hour mark through marksman Alexander Guptill, who struck home after some slick tic-tac-toe set-up play at 30.13.
Then came another flashpoint in this bad-tempered clash, and a complete moment of madness from Panthers defencemen Jaynen Rissling, following a tangle with Bari McKenzie in which both players fell to the ice, the former ended up on top of McKenzie, who started to hit his grounded opponent on the back of his head while he was lying face-down and defenceless.
It didn’t take the officials long to deliberate, and Rissling was duly ejected from the game after being issued a 5 plus game misconduct penalty, while McKenzie was also penalised for his part in the incident, handed a minor penalty for holding, much to the consternation of the home support.
Panthers were beginning to look the more likely winner as they laid siege to the Fife net, the hosts were looking really disjointed as the final period wore on.
With regulation time unable to separate the sides, the game headed to sudden-death overtime, and Flyers thought they had found a winner as the puck found its way past Munson, but after video review the goal was waved off by the officials after being ruled to have been kicked into the Panthers net.
The hosts were not to be denied though, and after some excellent play from Rick Pinkston, Joe Basaraba squeezed past Munson on 64.47 to seal a hard fought four-point weekend for Flyers, who have their sights firmly set on fourth place, and their highest ever EIHL league finish.
Flyers coach Todd Dutiaume was happy to seal more crucial points, especially with a depleted bench, but stressed that he felt that a familiar pattern was still ingrained in his team.
“It was four crucial points, you can see how tight the middle pack are," he said.
“I was much more happier with our performance last night, even though we were chasing the game for the majority.
“We got off to a fantastic start tonight, but once again we go up a couple of goals, guys loosen up and get a little bit selfish.
“It’s been our achilles heel this season, and it's so contagious, it can spread through the team like wildfire.
“Ultimately, I think we were pretty fortunate to win that game."