The stats and data from the opening period of this game should be pinned on Fife Flyers’ dressing-room wall with the simple message: This isn’t good enough.
The damage sustained in a terrible 5-1 opening stanza cost them this game and a 7-5 defeat.
Four of the goals came within a three-minute spell, three of them on the powerplay, and Flyers’ response was just two shots on goal, underlining how little they put into the period.
There’s not showing up, and then there’s this flat-lining, worryingly muddled effort which saw the previously solid penalty kill machine collapse with hideous results, and the team struggle to gain any significant foothold.
A Liam Heelis powerplay after 12 minutes gave them just enough of a grip on Stars’ jerseys to hang on into the second period which ended 7-2.
Again, down, and dangerously close to being out, Fife took the third 3-0 through some diligence and some smart hockey from a few players, including LeBlanc, Mosey, and Young. Credit to the team for the bounce back at least.
They also pulled their netminder for an intense finale which came within an ace of making this a one-goal hockey game, albeit a very loose one, but the worry must be what sort of damage could have been sustained against a team much more ruthless than Stars. The Taysiders ought to have buried this Challenge Cup match beyond doubt rather than finding themselves under siege in those closing minutes.
They really did nothing too fancy early on, but simply took their chances when they came, and, for a spell, looked as though they could score on any shift, so flat were Fife in their own zone.
Malcolm Gould opened Stars’ account at 3:53 and Chris Lawrence - who ended the game being helped off the ice in some pain – made it 2-0 with a PP at 4:52. The third, from Jimmy Jensen – the first of his hat-trick – came straight from the face-off as Fife looked lost and somewhat bewildered.
Jensen struck again before Heelis replied with the finishing touch to a well worked PP at 12:09.
Riley Stedel’s powerplay 60 seconds later ensured Stars’ held a healthy lead at the buzzer.
By then Flyers had lost Chase Schaber.
Playing injured from the night before, he was kept on the bench for the closing minutes and played no further part after the break, sparking a shake-up of the lines for the remainder of the night.
Fife grabbed a hint of a lifeline with a second goal at 23:03 – a neat finish from Peter LeBlanc – only to cough three more goals. including a killer short-handed counter for 6-2 with just 24 minutes played.
Stars were gifted a three on one counter attack while short handed, and Jensen had more than one opportunity to dig away at the puck before finding the net with the goal that really killed Fife’s slender comeback hopes.
Their misfortunes were perhaps summed up in the final minute of the period as they killed off a penalty only to see Johan Andersson’s right wing shot fumbled by Andy Isles and the puck drop into the net. The netminder could only lie on the ice and stare at the roof, knowing the magnitude of his error – but, to be fair, he also made a couple of big saves to deny Stars at key moments in the opening two periods, including one smashing flick of the glove to send a Lawrence net-bound shot into the back nets.
Isles made way for Jordan Marr in the third period, and Fife started to stalk Stars with two goals in the opening five minutes; LeBlanc over the blueline and a rifle of a finish, and then Carlo Finucci pouncing on a loose puck on the PP for 7-4.
A comeback still felt some way on the horizon, but they did show signs of sharper movement, and created some good chances.
Their fifth goal owed much to the sheer tenacity of Charlie Mosey who did all he could to keep the puck alive on the powerplay, with Gauthier getting the final touch past Travis Fullerton.
Handed a powerplay at 57:05, Flyers pulled their netminder and roamed around Stars’ zone with great intensity, but the puck wouldn’t fall for them.
In the end, the better team won – Stars deserved this victory. It should have been by a much healthier margin too.
Perhaps that’s the positive Fife take from a first trip to Tayside.
That and a strong memo to start the game the way they finished.