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Match Report – Friday 23rd February 2024

The Flyers and Storm were meeting for the final time this season in a match where the outcome would likely have a significant bearing for both sides in the final standings in the playoff race. With Storm three points ahead of the Flyers in the tables a win would see them put some breathing space between them and the Flyers who had also played two more games. The Flyers welcomed the return of Kyle Osterberg from injury and had a full squad to select from with Dominik Salama and Casey Gilling the scratches.  The Storm scratched blueliner Callum Fryer and forward Mitchell Martan.

The visitors had the better of the early exchanges as they tested Shane Owen several times who dealt comfortably with their efforts. The Flyers threatened in the 3rd minute when Lucas Chiodo and Drake Pilon broke 2 on 1 and Pilon was denied by a glove save by Evan Weninger. Moments later Owen came up with a big glove save as Loren Ulett went down the left wing and fired in a shot. The Flyers however took the lead in the 4th minute when Teemu Pulkkinen won a faceoff at the left circle and fed the puck back to Max Humitz who put a wrister on net and it found the bottom right hand corner. Manchester hit back and in the 6th minute Ulett was once again a danger but Owen made the save and from the rebound Joe Morrow rang the post. A minute later and Kyle Osterberg forced a good save from Weninger and the Storm were quick on their breakout with Stephen Johnson taking the puck down the right wing and his centering pass found Raymond Brice who gave Owen no chance with his finish. Troy Lajeunesse was then in too tight in the 12th minute which allowed Weninger to make the save on  his effort. The Flyers did however regain the lead with just over 15 minutes on the clock after some interpassing play  involving Vitalijs Pavlovs and Lajeunesse who backhanded the puck across crease and Jonas Emmerdahl up on the play got the vital touch to find the net. 30 seconds later following a skirmish in front of the Flyers bench the Storm went on the games first powerplay of the night following a five minute and game penalty being assessed against Fynn Page along with offsetting minor penalties which resulted in a 3 minute man advantage for the visitors. With just 5 seconds remaining in the period the Storm had the puck in the net when a Matt Murphy shot was deflected in off Stephen Johnson who also made contact with Owen at the edge of his crease. After some deliberation a coaches challenge was initiated and on review the goal was called back.

The Flyers still had 47 seconds of the penalty kill remaining to start the second period which they successfully managed to complete after Owen made a couple of good saves in a scramble around his crease. Weninger was called upon in the 22nd minute to make a toe save from Lajeunesse and a couple of minutes later Osterberg from a tight angle shot the puck across the face of the goal and it went out the other side. The Flyers were creating the better chances and in the 26th minute Chiodo set up Pulkkinen but Weninger was again looking solid as he came out to make the save. The Storm were back on the powerplay in the 29th minute and once again the Flyers did a good job on the kill restricting their visitors to just the one decent chance when a Zack Phillips one timer was stopped by Owen. The Storm came very close in the 33rd minute to levelling the game as Osterberg somehow managed to make a kick save on the goal line to keep the puck out after it had fluttered over Owen. Shortly afterwards the Flyers went on their first powerplay of the match and they had a couple of good attempts thwarted when firstly Johan Eriksson was stopped by Weninger going post to post and then Humitz from the top of the crease was denied by the Manchester goalie. Kevin Wehrs then fired a shot into the glow of Weninger before the Storm finished the period with the man advantage again and Austion Farley missed an open net amidst a scramble as the Flyers clung on.

The Flyers completed the penalty kill to start the third period but in the opening minute the Storm tied things up when Brice was on hand to knock the puck into the empty net after the puck bounced off bodies in front of Owen. The Flyers were next on the powerplay in the 44th minute and a Lajeunesse drive created a rebound but Collin Shirley saw his effort snagged by Weninger as the Flyers piled on the pressure but without getting the breakthrough. The home side came close again in the 49th minute when a Pulkkinen redirect just went narrowly wide of the post. Flyers were catching the Storm with their quick transition and both Osterberg and Lajeunesse had chances with just Weninger to beat but the Storm goalie was having a strong game and came up with huge saves. Weninger got a shoulder on a high shot from Chiodo in the 51st minute and Humitz in close again saw Weninger take all the space away as the game drifted towards overtime with the Storm clearly more than happy to hang on for the point.

The overtime period was dominated in terms of possession by the Flyers who created a number of good opening but they failed to provide the killer finish which included a penalty shot awarded when Osterberg was impeded when through on Weninger. Osterberg tried to go to the glove side but Weninger came up trumps as he just got a piece of the puck to send it wide and so in consecutive home games the outcome would be decided in a shootout.

The first four rounds of shooters saw the goalies come out on top after all eight attempts were saved. Cameron Critchlow then scored for Storm leaving Drake Pilon with a must score shot which he did so going forehand, backhand shelf on Weninger. Flyers missed the next shot in sudden death and ex-Flyer Phillips took his second of the shootout and this time got the puck in behind Owen to grab the vital extra point for the visitors.

The Flyers are next at home on Saturday 2nd March when they entertain the Glasgow Clan – 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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