Match Report – Thursday 28th March 2024

The Flyers and Panthers were in opposition for the final time in the regular season with playoff points at a premium. The Panthers trying to claw themselves into one of the coveted top eight positions and the Flyers trying to consolidate their 6th place with both teams having four games remaining after this one. The Panthers have had injury issues in recent weeks and were without Logan Neilson, Jake Ryczek and Carl Neill although they did welcome back Myles McGurty who left their last game with an injury. The Flyers were along similar lines to their last few games with Dominik Salama and Casey Gilling the scratched players.

Shane Owen dealt with the first shot of the game after just 10 seconds when Otto Nieminen fired the puck in on the Fife goal from long range. 90 seconds later Mathieu Lemay also tested Owen as the Panthers made a bright start to the match. The Flyers however started to get their offence rolling  and following a spell of down low pressure Teemu Pulkkinen came barreling into the slot but his shot missed the target. Lucas Chiodo was next to threaten the visitors goal as he walked in from the left wing but Rok Stojanovic was equal to the task as he got a blocker on the puck. The Flyers were finding lots of time and space in the Panthers end and they cycled the puck well with Stojanovic having to make a couple of positional saves from Johan Eriksson over the course of a shift. The Flyers went on the first powerplay of the game in the 8th minute and Eriksson was denied at the near post by Stojanovic. Pulkkinen also went close with a close in tip but the Panthers keeper was well positioned and the visitors survived the kill. It wasn’t all Flyers and in the 13th minute Alexander Lunsjo had a chance at the top of Owen’s crease but the Fife netminder did well to make a block. A minute later and Owen again looked sharp as he made a blocker save. The Panthers went on their first and only powerplay of the night with 90 seconds left in the period. Hugo Roy had their best chance before the period ended but Owen made a strong save to keep the game goalless.

The Flyers completed the kill at the start of the second period with Owen making another fine save but it was a different looking Nottingham team who were now denying the Flyers time and space in the Panthers defensive zone and were also much more of a threat offensively. In the 23rd minute Owen produced his candidate for save of the week with an all word stop when he flashed the leather to snag the puck from a Roy one timer from close in. The Panthers continued to hem the Flyers in their own end and when Fife did break into the Panthers zone they had difficulty retaining the puck as they had done so in the first period. In the 25th  minute the Flyers transitioned quickly and Chiodo couldn’t quite get the puck under control to get his shot away and the Panthers immediately went the other way and Jordan Kelsall was denied by another fine save by Owen. Flyers went back on the man advantage in the 26th minute but the Panthers easily killed the two minutes without giving up a shot on goal. Owen was again called into action in the 29th minute when he went post to post to stop Anthony Luciani. A couple of minutes later and the Flyers had their third powerplay of the night and once again they failed to get anything set up and Panthers killed with relative ease. In a play out of nothing Chiodo was unlucky to see his shot ping the inside of a post. With coincidental minors being called the teams stayed at even strength and Drake Pilon was stopped by a point blank save from Stojanovic before an almighty scramble in front of the visitors failed to result in a Flyers stick getting what surely would have been a goal scoring touch and  the teams headed to the room scoreless after 40 minutes.

The game by now had the feel that a single goal might just be enough for either side. In the 42nd minute Jonas Emmerdahl tried to beat Stojanovic short side but he got his pad tight against the post to make the save. Moments later and Chiodo was again denied by the pipework as another shot hit a post and rebounded to safety. The Flyers seemed to have regained more control of play in the Panthers end of the ice and Kyle Osterberg took the puck around the back of the net before coming out in front and releasing a shot that Stojanovic did well to get a pad on. The deadlock was broken in the 47th minute when Otto Nieminen stickhandled his way towards the Flyers goal and the puck appeared to slide off his stick freezing Owen who then couldn’t recover as the Panthers player got another touch to send it trickling into the net. The Panthers almost doubled their advantage 30 seconds later but again Owen made a big stop. With 10 minutes remaining the Flyers were  again on the powerplay and although they had much more zone time than their attempts in the second period they were still unable to create any dangerous threats on the Panthers goal and the visitors returned to full strength. Chances for either side in the closing stages of the game were all of low quality and with 90 seconds remaining the Flyers called a time out. On the restart they were able to pull Owen for an extra attacker but the harder they pushed the more fractured some of the play became and the Panthers who had a couple of chances to ice it with the empty net were able to hold on for two precious points that keeps their post season bid very much alive.

The Flyers are next at home on  Saturday 30th March when they entertain the Guildford Flames – tickets can be bought online here:  Tickets – Fife Flyers or look out on social media channels for box office opening times.