Match Report – Friday 13th October 2023

The Belfast Giants in their penultimate group game already had qualification locked up for the knockout stages whilst the Flyers, playing their final game, would also confirm qualification with a win. The Flyers scratches were Reece Harsch and Ben Hawerchuk whilst Belfast were without Mark Garside and Greg Printz who was serving a one game suspension following a Department of Player Safety review of a boarding incident the previous weekend.

The game started at a cracking pace with both teams taking turns in carrying the puck into the respective offensive zones. The Giants however struck with less than 3 minutes on the clock when Collin Shirley was forced to take a hooking penalty and the Belfast powerplay moved the puck around sweetly to find Ara Nazarian in the bumper zone to one time the puck past Shane Owen. Less than 60 seconds later and the home side increased their lead when Matt McLeod put the burners on down the left wing and took the puck to the paint to beat Owen. The Giants were clearly full of confidence and had the Flyers penned in their own zone but it was a lucky bounce that gave them a third goal in the 6th minute when a Travis Brown blast from the blueline was going wide until it hit Sean Norris on the inside of the leg and bounced in. A nightmare opening 10 minutes was capped when a giveaway in the Flyers zone was capitalized on by the Giants and Daniel Tedesco fired one high on Owen to make it 4-0. Fife settled things down a little after that and in the 14th minute Max Humitz gave Jackson Whistle his first real work of the night. The Giants goalie also had to make a smart pad save from Anthon Eriksson but it was almost a fifth in the last minute when Travis Brown rang the pipework with a fierce drive.

The pace understandably dropped slightly in the second period and although the Giants were still having the majority of the puck neither goalie faced any difficult shots in the opening eight minutes. The Flyers got on the board almost halfway through the period when Teemu Pulkkinen was on hand around the crease to dive and poke the puck across the line. 30 seconds later and the Flyers had their first man advantage of the night but the Giants penalty kill did a good job at keeping everything to the outside. After returning to even strength the Giants then went on the powerplay and they added to their lead with another fortunate bounce. Ben Lake with a no look back pass across the crease saw the puck hit Stephen Desrocher’s skate and slither into the net.

The Flyers almost pulled another goal back three minutes into the third period when Aleksi Mäkelä beat Whistle cleanly with a drive but it came back off the inside of the post.  The Giants added a 6th goal on the powerplay when Mark Cooper scored following a goalmouth scramble with the goal standing after a review. With the Giants seemingly thinking that their job was done for the night the Flyers hit back with three goals in as many minutes. Collin Shirley scored their second of the night when he picked the top corner on Whistle’s glove side. With just over six minutes remaining and the Flyers on a powerplay Troy Lajeunesse lasered one high glove again on Whistle and just ten seconds later the Flyers surged up ice and Lucas Chiodo skated down the gut to deke Whistle and slide the puck home. Suddenly the home side looked rattled and Nazarian took a 2+2 penalty with five minutes of the match remaining. Max Humitz was denied by a huge Whistle save and the Belfast goalie made several important stops and when one did get behind him Jacob Friend was on hand on the goal line to stop a shot from Johan Eriksson. The play was reviewed and no goal was awarded although the Belfast player was very lucky not to give up a penalty shot for covering the puck in the crease. Flyers kept pushing and pulled Owen for a 6 on 4 but just couldn’t force another past Whistle and almost inevitably the Giants iced the game with an empty net counter from Kohei Sato.

The Flyers are next at home on Saturday 21st October when they entertain the Guildford Flames   – tickets can be bought online here:  Tickets – Fife Flyers or look out on social media channels for box office opening times.