Wounded Flyers stars don’t want to be rested

Tommy Muir and Chris Lawrence exchange blows during Fife Flyers defeat to Nottingham Panthers on Saturday. Pic: Steve Gunn
Tommy Muir and Chris Lawrence exchange blows during Fife Flyers defeat to Nottingham Panthers on Saturday. Pic: Steve Gunn

Fife Flyers head coach Todd Dutiaume was considering resting one or two wounded players this weekend – until they talked him out of it.

Flyers will welcome Belfast Giants to Fife Ice Arena on Saturday for their final Challenge Cup Group A match in a second consecutive one-game weekend.

Both clubs have already qualified for the knock-out stages but Flyers’ banged-up players have resisted any suggestions they should be rested.

Dutiaume said: “Naturally, as a coach, I looked at the situation and asked whether we should rest one or two guys who have knocks to make sure they’re good for this tough stretch coming up.

“But I have guys coming to me saying, ‘no - let’s go for it’, and this says a lot about my players. We want to finish as high as possible and it’s a great thing as a coach to have your players telling you to take the brakes off them and let them go.”

Saturday’s result will determine where Flyers finish in the standings.

Victory will seal second place and a quarter-final against Nottingham Panthers, while defeat would see Flyers drop to third and face Cardiff Devils over two legs.

“We haven’t seen Cardiff yet but they’re putting up some big numbers right now,” Dutiaume said.

“We’ve performed well against Nottingham by beating them in their building and keeping it close here with our starting netminder not available. There’s probably an incentive for us to take our chances with Nottingham, just because Cardiff is a bit of the unknown right now.”

Flyers are sweating over the fitness of first choice netminder Kevin Regan, who missed the weekend home defeat to Nottingham with concussion.

With back-up Blair Daly also ruled out, Flyers recalled Greg Blais from retirement, and he could be called upon again this Saturday.

Dutiaume explained: “Will Kevin be ready for the weekend? I can’t answer that right now, but he has made significant improvements.

“I’ve said that before and he’s ended up in the net but my main concern is his longevity – that’s key to this club – and we won’t risk that.

“We’re in the process of now looking at the possibility of bringing a goaltender in to cover for these injuries. We’re looking at all our options.”

Dutiaume revealed he has also picked up an injury, adding: “I was gearing up and skating with the team but I’ve picked up something that has to be looked at.

“It doesn’t look like it’s a minor injury.”

Dutiaume meanwhile has spoken of his frustration with a minority of Flyers fans who booed the team during Saturday’s 5-3 defeat to Nottingham Panthers.

The result broke a run of five successive home wins for the Flyers and Dutiaume felt some of the criticism during the game was harsh.

“I was a little bit critical of a few voices in the stands after the game, but that’s as a result of knowing how much the guys care in the room,” he said.

“We’re a team that makes mistakes, but we’re also a team that puts on excellent performances, especially at home.

“I think some people don’t appreciate the standards they’re watching because the guys make it look effortless at times. Some of the stuff they are watching is top notch hockey.

“It’s a minority, I think, but it’s frustrating because the crowd is our biggest asset.

“They can get highly critical at times and that gets the guys down a little bit and they start piling even more pressure on themselves.

“They hold themselves to a pretty high standard but I definitely know my team is more loose when the crowd are right behind them.

“There are big expectations out there but I hope people don’t confuse that by thinking there are not big expectations in our dressing room either.”

Dutiaume also “tipped his hat” to stand-in netminder Blais, adding: “He did the best job he could in a difficult situation.

“The players understood the situation and I think they rose to the occasion.”