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Match Report – Saturday 9th March 2024

The Flyers playing just one game this weekend welcomed the Coventry Blaze to Kirkcaldy knowing that there was very little margin for error left in their quest to claim a top eight spot in the standings. The Flyers reintroduced Drake Pilon into the line up after his injury with Casey Gilling, Brodie Kay and Dominik Salama the scratches. The Blaze were coming off a shutout win in midweek and knew that two points tonight would probably put enough daylight between them and the hosts in the playoff race and they had Alessio Luciani and James Shearer as their scratches.

The visitors had an early chance in the opening 30 seconds of the game as Danny Kristo saw his effort blocked by  Aleksi Mäkelä. Max Humitz responded 30 seconds later as Taran Kozun failed to hold his shot but the puck was cleared. Neither side had the advantage in the early stages but the visitors went on the powerplay in the 4th minute as the Flyers were called for a double minor giving Blaze a four minute man advantage. Tyler Kirkup had a chance almost immediately when he was in close but Shane Owen shut him down. Moments later the Flyers survived a scramble around their net as JD Dudek went close when he was parked on the doorstep. The Flyers successfully killed the first minor penalty but the Blaze sustained pressure in the Flyers zone eventually told as they opened the scoring in the 7th minute when Kristo set up a back door finish by Ian McNulty as the Flyers penalty killers tired. The Flyers hit back in the 8th minute when Troy Lajeunesse went through and saw his shot hit the shaft of Taran Kozun’s stick and bounce away to safety. The home side levelled the game in the 12th minute following a quick up out of their own zone and Lajeunesse played the puck to Kyle Osterberg who streaked in on goal and beat Kozun on the blocker side. The Flyers then had the man advantage in the 15th minute and Johan Eriksson almost capitalised when a bad bounce off the boards saw Kozun go out of position but he recovered in enough time to make the stop. The powerplay ended with 20 seconds remaining as the Flyers were called for an infraction. The Blaze powerplay was killed off without any serious threat on the home goal as the sides ended the period on level terms.

Inside the opening minute Humitz tested Kozun to start the second period but the game went through a five minute spell where neither goalie was called upon to make a serious saves as defences were on top and neither side was able to take the momentum. The Blaze did have a strong shift where they cycled the puck in the Flyers zone for almost 60 seconds and Owen relieved the pressure by smothering the puck. In the 29th minute the Flyers went back on the powerplay and they were able to get the go ahead goal. Some patient play and crisp passing saw Lucas Chiodo and Johan Eriksson work the puck around the perimeter of the Blaze penalty killing box before a pass inside found Humitz in the bumper position and he picked the corner of the net on Kozun. The Flyers gradually took more control of the period and in the 35th minute Lajeunesse fired a rocket of a shot over the crossbar with Kozun scrambling to regain his net. A minute later and Chiodo cut in from the right wing and as he dragged the puck across the top of the crease he tried to back hand the puck underneath the keeper who made a good pad save. Seconds later and Drake Pilon found himself too tightly in on Kozun and couldn’t get the puck over his outstretched leg. Blaze were called for another penalty in the 38th minute and it took the Flyers only 4 seconds to extend their lead. A face off win saw the puck go to Chiodo who found Humitz at the top of the crease and his tip went in off the crossbar. With 46 seconds left in the period the Blaze had another powerplay but the Flyers penalty kill kept them off the board before the period ended.

The third period started with a very strong penalty kill by the Flyers who returned to full strength only for McNulty to almost pull a goal back but his fierce drive from the slot went wide. The Flyers with another quick break saw Chiodo feed the puck to Eriksson whose shot hit a skate in front of the Blaze net otherwise it looked like it might have squeaked in. Owen was called upon in the 44th minute to make a big save to deny Chase Hartje as he was aggressively out at the top of his crease to take away the angle. The Flyers keeper could do nothing moments later however as Brady Norrish let a slapshot got from just inside the blueline and the puck struck a Flyers stick on the way into the net. Crucially the Flyers killed any Blaze momentum with a goal just two minutes later when they exposed the Blaze on a rush again with Lajeunesse releasing Osterberg who finished on the same side as his first goal on Kozun. Blaze were far from done however and Owen had a series of solid saves to follow when he denied McNulty from close range and then Aidan Spellacy with a fine leg save. The Flyers were on the powerplay again in the 53rd minute but it was the Blaze who almost got the next goal with JD Dudek having a shorthanded bid denied by another very good Owen save. Still with the man advantage the Flyers were bailed out again by Owen who stopped Kirkup who was in on his goal. The Blaze were called again for a penalty setting up a short 5 on 3 but with one skater back for Blaze the Flyers finally made the game safe when a Kevin Wehrs shot from the blueline was tipped by Teemu Pulkkinen and found the net. With 90 seconds remaining Kozun flat out robbed Lajeunesse with a fine pad save and Owen also made one last save as the Flyers got the much sought after two points.

The Flyers are next at home on Sunday 24th March when they entertain the Belfast Giants – 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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