Fife Flyers opened their 2023-24 season with a preseason game against the Dundee Stars. These games are often referred to as ‘Friendlies’ but as Head Coach Tom Coolen remarked post match “Anything but a friendly but a real good game”. The Flyers had their full roster take the warm up with the issues over lost equipment now resolved it meant that Casey Gilling and Aleksi Mäkelä were included with both being the healthy scratches come puck drop.
An encouraging crowd of almost 2000 caused a 15 minute delay to the scheduled face off as fans poured in, including a very healthy contingent down from the other side of the Tay. With the recent warm weather yet to relent it created a humid atmosphere inside the rink which at times made for difficult ice conditions.
Dundee are a team who have made significant personnel changes from their 10th placed finish last term and they were at full strength to start this one.
As expected the early pace was frantic with play going end to end and there was no shortage of big hits as both sides attempted to put their physical mark on proceedings. Stars took the first penalty at 3:46 when Carter Johnson was called for a trip but the Fife powerplay was short lived as Troy Lajeunesse was assessed an interference call 21 seconds later. With the teams returning to full strength the Stars went on a 5 on 3 powerplay after Stephen Desrocher was called for a trip and less than a minute later Teemu Pulkkinen got the gate for boarding. Having returned to four skaters Fife were assessed another minor with Ben Hawerchuk sitting for a rough and the Stars returned to a two man advantage which they made good on with the opening goal when Johnny Walker finished off a passing move at the back post.
The visitors almost increased their lead when Ryan Valentini struck iron but with Fife still killing the 5 on 4 James Phelan was on hand to pick up the scraps around Shane Owen’s crease to extend the lead.
Stars Chris McKay sat for a double minor for roughing but Kevin Carr in the visitors net was having a solid looking game. Stars had the final powerplay chances of the opening period as the Flyers were called for too many men but there was no further updates to the scoreboard.
The Flyers were again on the penalty kill early in the middle period as Adam Holwell was given an interference minor. The Flyers almost pulled a goal back as Kyle Osterberg and Teemu Pulkkinen broke up ice on a two man breakaway but the latter was stoned by Carr with a fine glove save. Stars were then called for too many men and although Fife didn’t score it was clear that they had the majority of the momentum in this period. The breakthrough the home were looking for arrived in the 36th minute with both teams having men in the box but Fife, with the powerplay, struck through ex Star Johan Eriksson with assists from Max Humitz and Collin Shirley. Flyers tails were up and when Sean Allen took a roughing penalty it took Fife only 12 seconds on the powerplay to tie things up with a nice finish from Max Humitz assisted by Shirley and Lucas Chiodo. From the resulting face off Lajeunesse was called for a trip followed by Stars Brittain for the same offence and there was no further scoring in the period.
Reece Harsch, who saw limited ice time in the middle period, did not return to the home bench for the start of the third. Fife continued to take the game to Dundee and with McKay sitting for roughing Kevin Carr again came up big. It was Shane Owen’s turn next to flash the leather with Jonas Emmerdahl in the box for hi-sticking. As was to be expected the pace of the game by the late stages had dropped significantly and the Stars were left killing a two man advantage as they took another too many men call along with a boarding call on Brittain with Osterberg thankfully able to skate off after being down on the ice for a moment. The visitors got the job done and regulation time ended all square.
3 on 3 sudden death overtime saw Fife have the first chance when Emmerdahl went close with a shot from the high slot. With neither side dominating the winner arrived almost unexpectedly when Jake Elmer went down the right wing and from the outside he picked the bottom corner stick side on Shane Owen.
A “very positive night” remarked Tom Coolen afterwards.