Match Report – Saturday 10th February 2024

It was the battle of the bottom two sides who were each desperate for points to claw back ground on the Glasgow Clan who occupied the last playoff spot. The Flyers roster, now almost back at full strength, had Shane Owen getting the start in net with Casey Gilling, Fynn Page and Brodie Kay the scratches. The Panthers were without Felix Paré who was serving the first of his three game suspension for head butting the previous weekend and they started with Mike Robinson in net for the first time this season against the Flyers. The Panthers were also without Jeremy Welsh and Ollie Betteridge with the latter on duty with Team GB in their Olympic Qualification games in Cardiff.

It was a fast paced start from both teams but the early signs were that the Panthers were looking very dangerous with their quick transition game and the Flyers defence were caught chasing odd man rushes on a few occasions but it was a won puck battle by Myles McGurty in the Flyers end that set up the opening goal just over two minutes in when Simon Després walked on to his pass and although Shane Owen got a bit of his shot he couldn’t stop it finding the back of the net. The Flyers then survived a scramble around their net when Westin Michaud came out from behind the net to get a shot in on Owen but seconds later they were two goals down with the Panthers striking again in the 5th minute when a no look, behind the back, pass from along the boards behind the goal saw the puck find Hugo Roy who had all sorts of time to take the it around a stranded Owen and slip it home. The home side desperately needed to establish a foothold in the game and it arrived with just over six minutes played when Johan Eriksson slipped the puck to Jonas Emmerdahl who took a couple of strides forward from the blueline and picked the top corner over the glove of Mike Robinson. The goal seemed to settle the Flyers down and the Panthers goal had some narrow escapes with both Teemu Pulkkinen and Collin Shirley having efforts denied by Robinson. With just over two minutes of the period remaining the Flyers tied the game up when Max Humitz put the puck on goal and Pulkkinen, who was going to the net, got a tip on it to beat Robinson. There was still more goal action to come however and with the Panthers skating 6 on 5 on a delayed boarding call against the Flyers they fashioned an opening with just 14 seconds of the period remaining when Mike Caruso fired a shot from the top of the slot that beat Owen cleanly.

Flyers were first to threaten in the second period and inside the opening 25 seconds a nice move between Kyle Osterberg and Troy Lajeunesse ended with a huge pad save by Robinson to deny the former. The Panthers nearly capitalised again with a quick breakout and with a 4 on 2 advantage they couldn’t make it count. In the 24th minute Robinson had a snappy glove save from Osterberg and Owen responded in kind a minute later when he gloved a shot from Michaud. Robinson got a toe on the puck to keep a shot on the turn from Lajeunesse from finding the net. Just before the halfway point in the game the Panthers regained their two goal lead when Owen made an initial save the puck was then knocked goalwards by Jake Ryczek and amidst a scrambled it somehow found a way to trickle into the net. Timely goals are often spoken about by coach Coolen and 46 seconds later the Flyers halved the deficit when Lajeunesse didn’t get all of his first shot which was padded back into his path by Robinson but he made no mistake at the second time of asking. The Flyers had life again and pressed for the equaliser with Lajeunesse skating out from behind the goal with the puck but Robinson was aggressively out at the top of his crease to cut down the angle and make the save. With a couple of minutes left in the period the Flyers were level again when Shirley won the puck behind the net and his pass out front found Humitz in splendid isolation and he roofed a backhander over the shoulder of Robinson. Just as it was in the first however the Panthers went out in front again with another late goal as Carl Neill took the puck for a skate in the Flyers end and found Alexander Lunsjö who one timed a shot that looked as though it struck the crossbar whilst the Panthers claimed goal after it had gone in and out of the net. The play went to review at the next stoppage and the officials overturned their no goal decision to award the strike.

The Panthers made the perfect start to the third period when they once again regained their two goal lead after just 67 seconds when McGurty put a puck on net from the half boards and it bounced off Owen’s pads and hit Osterberg’s skate to end up in the net. Crucially as they did in the middle period it took the Flyers just 45 seconds to again pull within a goal when Humitz picked out Pulkkinen streaking through centre ice and he went in on Robinson to beat him through the five hole.  The Flyers were level with an opportunistic goal in the 48th minute when Humitz won the puck in the Panthers zone and from the corner down below the goal line he fired it in off Robinson at his near post. Incredibly within a minute the Flyers then took the lead when Aleksi Mäkelä dished the puck to Lajeunesse who, with his patented one timer, wired the puck past Robinson from the middle of the slot. Panthers immediately called a timeout but the Flyers went looking for more goals with Humitz on a quick break forcing a glove save before Owen was called into action making an acrobatic sprawling save on Lunsjö but he could do nothing to stop the Panthers getting back on terms moments later when the puck was coughed up in the corner and Michaud fed Logan Neilson who picked his spot from a few feet out from Owen’s net. The Flyers responded and the firewagon hockey continued when they regained the lead for the final time just over 60 seconds later when Lucas Chiodo scampered down the left wing and his cross crease pass was deposited into the net at the back post by Johan Eriksson.  Panthers went on their first powerplay of the night with 6 minutes remaining and the Flyers penalty kill came up big to keep them off the board. There was a sharp intake of breath when the teams returned to even strength as the puck squeaked through Owen who managed to recover and make the stop before the Flyers then went on the man advantage with under four minutes to go.  The Flyers controlled a large part of the powerplay looking for the killer chance but with 30 seconds remaining the Panthers were called for another infraction and with a two man advantage the Flyers went looking for an insurance goal after calling a timeout. It was almost a nightmare scenario though in the opening seconds as the visitors fired the puck down ice and two Panthers won the battle forcing a misplaced pass with Owen robbing Stephen Anderson who was on his doorstep. From the face off Kevin Wehrs picked up the puck and dished to Lajeunesse who weaved his way through the Panthers defence before unleashing a shot that beat Robinson stick side to send a few hats and caps to the ice from the stands and seal the win on an incredible night of goal scoring and a huge two points in the playoff race for the Flyers.

The Flyers are next at home on Saturday 17th February 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.