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Match Report – Saturday 16th December 2023

It was the second visit of the season for the Flyers to the Utilita Arena with the teams having met just six days ago in Kirkcaldy. Jonas Emmerdahl returned to the lineup after injury. James Spence and Brodie Kay who were also both missing midweek in Guildford also returned. Injury victims Fynn Page, Johan Eriksson and Ben Hawerchuk were scratches. The Steelers were missing the injured Sam Jones along with Kameron Kielly and goalie Anthony Morrone.

The Steelers were first on the board as Patrick Watling came down the left wing and wristed one glove side on Shane Owen who was unsighted by the fly by screen of Brett Neumann. That brought the teddy bears raining down on the ice and a little over eight minutes later we were back underway with the action. Owen stood tall moments later as he denied Scott Allen who was parked on the top of his crease. A second goal did arrive with less than four minutes on the clock and there was a great deal of misfortune for Collin Shirley as a shot by Dominic Cormier that was going way off target struck him on the face and bounced into the net. Shirley left to go to the room for repairs and was back midway through the period. Mitchell Balmas had an effort blocked by a Flyers leg in the 8th minute when he had a clear sight of net with Owen scrambling. In the 11th minute Casey Gilling had a shot from distance that was comfortably dealt with by Matt Greenfield. On the next shift the Flyers found a way back into the match when a no look back pass across crease by Max Humitz had Greenfield completely out of position and allowed Anthon Eriksson a slam dunk into the yawning cage. Steelers went on the only powerplay of the period in the 12th minute and they enjoyed lots of zone time but the Fife penalty kill did a good job with Owen coming up with a save on Neumann late on and the Flyers also having a shorthanded chance when Shirley tried a wraparound that Greenfield was alert to. In the 15th minute Eriksson cut in from the right wing boards and Greenfield stood strong as he drove the net.  Play was opening up now and  Aleksi Mäkelä walked down the centre ice and it looked like his drive was kept out by the toe of Greenfield before Steelers went the other way and Watling had his effort blocked. Flyers were back on level terms when Lucas Chiodo received a pass just below the circles and picked the top corner above Greenfield’s blocker. Stephen Desrocher made a fantastic defensive play in the 18th minute when he got his stick on the puck to break up a 2 on 1 and with just four seconds remaining in the period Brandon Whistle pinged one off the post.

The Flyers had the first chances of the second period when Eriksson had a breakaway and his shot created a rebound which Kyle Osterberg fired off the shoulder of Greenfield.  The Flyers stunned the home crowd in the 25th minute when Vitalijs Pavlovs found lots of space on the left wing and he fired his shot straight through Greenfields’s five hole. Steelers responded and Owen was square to a Tansey shot with a mass of humanity around his net. A minute later and Owen stopped another close in effort from Allen who tried a backhand. At this point the Steelers were creating a lot of down low pressure but when they did eventually beat Owen it came yet again with a huge slice of fortune. Robert Dowd in front of the net stopped the puck with his skate and spun around to shoot the puck which was going to go wide but hit a Flyers skate and deflected in behind Owen. 61 seconds later and the Steelers went in front when Daniel Ciampini was on hand to poke the puck home following a scramble around the Flyers net.  The Steelers went on another powerplay in 30 minutes and the Flyers survived a scramble around their cage and had Owen to thank for a blocker save on Marc-Olivier Vallerand. In 33 minutes Sean Giles made a huge defensive play when he swatted the puck away from Whistle who was about to dump it into the empty net. The Flyers went straight down the ice and Max Humitz had all sorts of time but was denied by a spectacular save by Greenfield. The Flyers had a couple of half chances around the 35 minute mark and they had their best shift of the game when they pinned the Steelers in their own end for around a minute with the play eventually being blown down as the Steelers took a penalty. It took the visitors a while to get a play set up with the man advantage and a superb Pavlovs pass across the crease could not be deflected into the wide open net by Troy Lajeunesse. In the final minute Dowd took the puck to the net but again Owen stood strong.

The Steelers were back on the powerplay in the first minute of the final period and despite spending the entire two minutes in the Flyers zone they could only create a Watling drive that was blockered away by Owen. Perhaps the turning point of the game came in the 49th minute when the Flyers were assessed two minor penalties on the same play setting up a long 5 on 3 man advantage for the Steelers. Colton Saucerman had a blast well saved and Owen also did well to stop Neumann from close quarters. With the penalties seconds away from expiring the best powerplay unit in the league finally got one behind the Fife netminder when a slap pass from Watling was tipped home by Neumann. The Steelers had the chance to increase their lead in the 52nd minute when they were awarded a penalty shot but Dowd could not beat Owen. Within a few seconds of that reprieve the Flyers closed the gap once again when Eriksson and Chiodo broke on a 2 on 1 with the later being fed the puck to beat Greenfield on the stick side.  The Flyers had their tails up at this point and went on another powerplay. After some desperation play to keep the puck alive in the Steelers zone the puck was coughed up on the blueline and Mark Simpson set up Brandon Whistle for the short handed counter with Owen having no chance. In the 55th minute another bounce off a Flyers player struck the cross bar from a Balmas shot. The Flyers went on another man advantage with three minutes remaining but Simpson almost scored another shortie when he forced a kick save from Owen. With a couple of minutes left the Flyers called a timeout and Owen stayed on the bench. They couldn’t get the puck settled in the Steelers zone and when it broke into neutral ice Simpson won the puck battle to skate down and ice the win into the empty net in what had been a valiant effort by the visitors.

The Flyers are next at home on Sunday 17th December when they entertain the Cardiff Devils – tickets can be bought online here:  Tickets – Fife Flyers or look out on social media channels for box office opening times.

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