The fate of Fife Flyers’ entire season will be decided over one dramatic weekend of ice hockey as Elite League champions Sheffield Steelers stand between them and a return to the play-off finals in Nottingham.
A huge crowd is expected at Fife Ice Arena for the quarter-final first leg on Saturday as Steelers travel to Kirkcaldy having clinched the EIHL title on the final weekend of the regulation season.
People will probably have us written off already - that’s perfect. We’re quite happy to be underdogsTodd Dutiaume
Flyers, who scraped into the play-offs as last seeds, just one point ahead of Edinburgh Capitals, then make the journey to Sheffield’s Motorpoint Arena for the second leg on Sunday.
Flyers go into the two-game series as massive underdogs but they have shown that, on their day, they are a match for anyone and head coach Todd Dutiaume is looking forward to the challenge of upsetting the odds.
“First of all we’re delighted to get into the play-offs,” Dutiaume told the Press.
“We’ll have to beat the best of the best to get where we want to go so we might as well take on Sheffield right off the bat and see where we stand.
“People will probably have us written off already - that’s perfect. We’re quite happy to be underdogs.
“It takes some of the pressure off this club and let’s us do what we do best without having to worry about the consequences. Hopefully that helps us bring our two best performances of the year so far.”
Dutiaume stressed that Flyers will approach the weekend with confidence, despite finishing a disappointing league season with two home defeats to Belfast Giants and Braehead Clan last weekend.
“Results didn’t go our way over the weekend but we played two good hockey teams and we saw a lot of positives from both games,” he said.
“We took the league runners-up right to the final buzzer - they just capitalised on a few mistakes we made. We have to eliminate those errors this weekend because the margin for error is really small.
“It’s no secret we’ve battled inconsistency throughout the season but we have the talent in this team to beat anybody in the league.
“Parts of the season we were unhappy with, and we played great hockey at times, but this is a chance to shine a positive light on the year.
“There’s no doubting this team is capable of some magic moments, but it will require 120 minutes of their best hockey. They won’t be under-prepared for it - put it that way.”
Flyers lost all four meetings with Sheffield during the season - twice losing heavily on the road - but Dutiaume insists he has no fears over facing a formidable opponent.
“If we get that work-ethic and all our big guys show up we’ll fancy our chances,” he said. “Sheffield are an institution in British ice hockey and a team that have had a lot of success over the years. We would love to play spoilers for sure.”
Key to Flyers’ success, Dutiaume acknowledged, will be making home advantage count in the first leg.
“No matter what happens in the first leg you can never say anything is settled,” he stressed. “But we would definitely like to take an advantage down to Sheffield. If there’s an opportunity to draw first blood we’d love to take it.”