Match Report – Saturday 6th January 2024

Fife Flyers travelled for the second time this season in league action to meet the Belfast Giants. Making their Flyers debuts were Kevin Lindskoug in net and blueliner Kevin Wehrs with Stephen Desrocher, Shane Owen and Johan Eriksson all missing out. Also not making the trip were Andy Little, James Spence and Brodie Kay and the back up netminder was Gavin Kelly who has been involved with the Giants as a practice goalie and was called in from his local hockey team to provide cover after Tom Coolen had seen him in the Giants pregame skate before Christmas. The Giants started Jackson Whistle in nets with Tyler Beskorowany as back up and they also had Josh Roach making his season debut after recovering from surgery in the off season whilst they were without Jacob Friend, Mark Garside, Miles Gendron and Mark Cooper. Will Cullen who resigned a few days ago was present but not in the lineup.

It was a slow start from both sides with the first shot on goal coming from a Sean Giles effort from the blueline that Jackson Whistle dealt with comfortably. The next shot on net for either side didn’t come until the 7th minute when Kevin Lindskoug did well to deal with a Davey Phillips drive from the blueline before scrambling the puck away. That however seemed to awaken the Giants who then laid siege around the Flyers net after going on the games first power play moments later. Lindskoug had pad saves on Bobby MacIntyre and Ara Nazarian as they were able to kill the penalty. Soon after, Henrik Eriksson was denied by a very good glove save by Lindskoug. The Giants pressure paid off in the 10th minute when Lindskoug could do nothing to prevent Ben Lake poking the puck home after he had made a couple of saves in a scramble around his net. The Flyers best chance so far fell to Teemu Pulkkinen on a 2 on 1 but Whistle was able to hold his drive from the slot. In the 14th minute Lindskoug again did well when he smothered a Jeff Baum shot with Lake on the top of his crease. A minute later and Whistle was aggressively out to challenge Max Humitz who was all alone in front of the net and the Giants minder was able to make the block. With 90 seconds of the period remaining the Giants went on their second man advantage which carried over into the second period. Just as it was on the Flyers visit before Christmas the ice at SSE Arena tonight was giving both sets of players some issued with a few slips and a lot of bobbling pucks.

The Giants took advantage of their remaining powerplay time when Charlie Curti released from the blueline and Lake got the tip to give Lindskoug no chance. Aleksi Mäkelä had a shot from the blueline in the 22nd minute blockered away. Two minutes into the period and Lindskoug produced a fantastic save from Oliver Cooper but could do nothing to stop Jeff Baum from adding a third for the Giants from the rebound. In the 24th minute Lindskoug produced a flashing glove save to deny Greg Printz. The Flyers got themselves back into the game in the 25th minute when Brady Pouteau retrieved the puck in the corner and fed it to Troy Lajeunesse who was streaking in and he beat Whistle with a low shot. A minute later and the Giants missed a snip when Printz set up Travis Brown who shot over with lots of net to hit. The Flyers were much more of a threat in this period and Lajeunesse and Kyle Osterberg both tested Whistle who produced solid pad saves. Halfway through the period Sean Norris rang a shot off the crossbar. Lindskoug came up big again in the 32nd minute when MacIntyre skated in all alone and tried to dink the puck over him but he snagged it with his glove. The Flyers responded with an effort again from Lajeunesse but Whistle was alert. In the 33rd minute the Flyers went on their first powerplay and chances came for Lajeunesse, Osterberg, Sean Giles and Kevin Wehrs but the shots were all from the outside and dealt with by Whistle. Just as the Giants had returned to full strength however the Flyers got another one back with a superb bar down finish by Lajeunesse giving Whistle no chance. Almost immediately the Flyers were back on the powerplay but the two minutes passed without them creating any serious chances. Lucas Chiodo then drove down the left wing and as he was cutting in he was denied by a great back check by Baum who swept the puck away. The Giants would start the third period on the powerplay as the Flyers were called for an infraction with just five seconds remaining in the period.

A huge kill to start the third was required and the Flyers succeeded with Lindskoug only called into action once to turn away a Curti shot from distance. Back at even strength and the Giants threatened again with a Brown shot that forced Lindskoug into a full length save. In the 44th minute Lindskoug let the puck pop out of his glove from a Daniel Tedesco drive and it landed on top of the net with Kohei Sato blasting one high over the net from the top of the slot moments later. In the 45th minute Teemu Pulkkinen was inches away from connecting with a cross crease pass and Whistle then had to turn away shots from both Lajeunesse and Humitz. The Flyers went on the powerplay with 8 minutes remaining when Collin Shirley was tripped as he was about to break through. Whistle came up with what must be a strong contender for save of the week when he denied Shirley on the edge of his crease with a sprawling save after a fine tic tac toe passing move opened up the chance. Midway through the powerplay the Giants were called for another infraction and with the two man advantage the Flyers eventually levelled the game. Following a shoulder save on a Lajeunesse effort Whistle was alert to block a shot from Osterberg who followed up on the rebound to tie the game. There was still a minute of 5 on 4 powerplay left for the Flyers and Chiodo came closest when Whistle had to make a pad save. The game was evenly balanced although the momentum swung the way of the Giants when they went on the powerplay with just two minutes remaining. The Flyers did a great job on the kill and survived a few low down scrambles and Lindskoug produced a huge pad save to send the game into overtime.

The Flyers won the opening faceoff in the 3 on 3 hockey and they created a host of chances with Lajeunesse, Humitz, Pulkkinen and Shirley all denied by a busy Whistle. Giants had very little of the puck with Fife winning all but a couple of the face offs during the five minutes but with just 30 seconds left Belfast could have snatched it when Baum drove wide.

Into the shootout and Bobby MacIntyre was first up and scored with Troy Lajeunesse being denied by Whistle. Lindskoug then saved Matt McLeod’s effort before Kyle Osterberg levelled the score. Ben Lake and Henrik Eriksson both missed the Giants next efforts whilst Whistle made saves to deny Lucas Chiodo and Drake Pilon. Quinn Preston was denied by Lindskoug and Vitalijs Pavlovs with the chance to win it was stopped by Whistle. Into sudden death and the teams reversed order with Osterberg again netting, Ara Nazarian responded to keep the Giants alive and Osterberg came out again and beat Whistle for a third time. MacIntyre took the next Giants shot and Kevin Lindskoug got a piece of the puck to keep it out and spark the celebrations from the bench.

The end of a 26 game losing run against the Giants with the first league points taken by the Flyers in Belfast since the 17th March 2018.

The Flyers are next at home on Sunday 7th January when they entertain the Nottingham Panthers – tickets can be bought online here:  Tickets – Fife Flyers or look out on social media channels for box office opening times.