Match Report – Saturday 3rd February 2024

The Flyers were making their last visit of the regular season to the Storm Shelter desperately seeking points to claw themselves closer to their hosts in the race for the playoffs. The Flyers knew that the first step would be to break their scoring duck in Altrincham having been shutout on their two previous visits this season. With Shane Owen unavailable for family reasons the Flyers moved to sign Finnish goaltender Dominik Salama from the Polish league earlier in the morning and then it was a race against time to get him to the rink for face off. With the injury issues now appearing to be behind the Flyers with Stephen Desrocher removed from injured reserve he and Casey Gilling were scratches along with Fynn Page, James Spence and Brodie Kay. The Storm had ex-Flyer and top scorer last season Zack Phillips in their lineup and new signing from earlier in the week Raymond Brice along with Callum Fryer were both scratched.

It was the Flyers debutant who was called into action first when he gloved a shot after 45 seconds. From the face off the Storm again threatened and it was Austin Farley this time that was denied by a pad save. In the third minute the Flyers got on the scoreboard following tenacious work down below the goal line by Vitalijs Pavlovs and when the puck came out in front to Kyle Osterberg he gave Evan Weninger no chance with a fierce one timer. A minute later and Weninger swatted a shot from Max Humitz away with his glove. In the 6th minute Cam Critchlow came rushing down the left wing but Salama made a comfortable looking glove save. The Storm went on the games first powerplay in the 7th minute and they made their advantage count. Following a couple of blasts from up top by Joe Morrow the puck fell onto the stick of Stephen Johnson who took it wide of a lunging Salama and into the net. The Flyers were on their first man advantage in the 11th minute but within a few seconds the Storm made a 2 on 1 break up ice and Loren Ulett elected to take the shot from distance and sniped the puck glove side on the Fife keeper. The rest of the powerplay saw the Flyers fail to get anything set up on the Storm zone. Flyers came close to leveling the game in the 16th minute when Weninger came way out of his crease to play the puck which was won back by the Flyers and fed to Osterberg in the high slot who with Dallas Ehrhardt trying desperately to block his shot hit the outside of the post with the net gaping. Moments later Johan Eriksson stickhandled his way to the front of the Storm goal and despite Weninger not knowing where the puck was it was swiped clear. In the 18th minute Ryan Harrison was denied by a solid save by Salama. With just 30 seconds of the period remaining a pass from Collin Shirley found Humitz with lots of time and space and he tried to pick his spot but fired wide of the net.

Salama was first in action in the opening minute of the second period when he had to make a pad save from distance. The Storm were clearly the team with all the jump at this stage and moments after Salama had made another save on Mitchell Martan the storm increased their lead. On a counter rush Stephen Johnson found himself with the freedom of Altrincham down the left wing with a Flyers defensive missed assignment and he went five hole on Salama. A minute later and the Flyers goal survived another scare with a scramble around Salama as Tyler Hinam drove the net. In the 28th minute Hinam was very close again when he got a tip on a shot from the blueline and his deflection was just inches wide of the far post. The Flyers went back on the powerplay in the 31st minute and with their second unit out they created a host of quality chances. Firstly Humitz was stopped by a very good Weninger save who then survived a couple of scrambles around his crease but there was nothing lucky about his save on Teemu Pulkinnen from an Eriksson set up and he was glad to be able to freeze the puck. Back at even strength the next chance fell to Cam Critchlow who went through the centre of the Flyers defence but Salama stayed with him to block his effort. Back on the powerplay in the 36th minute the Flyers eventually found the back of the net. It was late on in the two minutes but Kevin Wehrs put the puck on net where Vitalijs Pavlovs made the tip and before Weninger could react the big centre poked his knockdown into the net. The Storm responded almost immediately however when Salama was able to block a blast from Johnny Corneil but his defence could not clear the loose puck and Ulett drove home his second of the match. With 90 seconds left on the clock Johan Eriksson played a pass to Drake Pilon and with Weninger sprawled across the ice he could only fire the puck into the Storm netminder. The Storm were then called for delay of game with 20 seconds to go.

The Flyers started the third period on the powerplay and with time running down they got the game to within a goal when Lucas Chiodo feathered a lovely cross crease pass to Eriksson who gave Weninger no chance to get back across his goal with a crisp one timer.  Salama had to look sharp a minute later as he shut down Corneil who drove across his crease with the puck but the Flyers were soon back at the other end and Wehrs had a huge blast from the point blocked in front of the Storm netminder. Play was very much going the way of the Flyers who were spending very little time in their own zone but still were finding clear cut opportunities hard to create against a resolute Storm defence. Their pressure paid off in the 48th minute when a sweeping move down ice ended with Troy Lajeunesse slipping the puck inside to Osterberg who was able to slide the puck low on Weninger. The Flyers continued to dominate the game after this point but as the game wore on both sides looked more and more content to play safe hockey and ensure that they each got their point.

Into overtime and the first chance went the Flyers way with a big one time blast by Lajeunesse being stopped by the pads of Weninger. The Storm took the extra point inside the opening 60 seconds however when they won the puck in front of the Flyers bench and had two men over on the other wing where Hinam took the puck into the zone and beat Salama on the stick side.

The Flyers are next at home on Sunday 4th February when they entertain the Manchester Storm – tickets can be bought online here:  Tickets – Fife Flyers or look out on social media channels for box office opening times.