Match Report – Friday 12th April 2024

The Flyers and Steelers were the first game on the slate for the playoff quarter final weekend as they met at the smaller confines of ICE Sheffield, the Flyers 9th visit ever visit there. The Steelers as number one seed clearly came into the game as favourites and after resting and rotating their roster in the final few weeks of the season they lined up with Matt Greenfield back in nets and their scratches were Zach Vinnell, Patrick Harper, Jonathan Phillips and Robert Dowd. The Flyers scratched Casey Gilling, Brodie Kay and Dominik Salama as they looked to gain their first road win against Sheffield in 16 games or at the very ;least still be in the tie for the second leg at Fife Ice Arena on Sunday night.

The Flyers created the first opportunity of the game after 40 seconds when Vitalijs Pavlovs got a shot on Matt Greenfield who let out a rebound and Teemu Pulkkinen knocked the puck agonisingly past the post. Shane Owen had to deal with his first shot after 2 minutes when Brien Diffley tested him from distance. The Steelers over the next three minutes created numerous chances as they left the Flyers clinging on. Mitchell Balmas was firstly denied by Owen and the loose puck almost fell for the home side but Aleksi Mäkelä saved a certain goal when he got a stick out to swipe the puck away with the goal gaping. 30 seconds later Marco-Olivier Vallerand forced a great pad save from Owen. Balmas almost took advantage of a giveaway but from the slot his shot was saved and Owen followed that up with another two stops one of which was again from Balmas as the Steelers cranked up the pressure. Having weathered the storm in the opening five minutes the next five minutes was much less frenetic around the visitors goal as play swung from end to end without a whistle. The Flyers were doing a much better job at containing the Steelers attack whilst at the other end they weren’t able to seriously trouble Greenfield. Johan Eriksson had a good active stick in the 10th minute as he deflected the puck away from Mikko Juusola who would surely have had a slam dunk. The Steelers did however get the ice breaker in the 11th minute when a one timer from Balmas beat Owen despite him getting a piece of it. The Flyers responded well and in the next shift Troy Lajeunesse had a chance before Greenfield then had to be well positioned to stop a close in tip by Kyle Osterberg. In the 15th minute Osterberg had a shot that Greenfield couldn’t hold but the loose puck was cleared. Owen again made a crucial save in the 16th minute when he literally got the tip of his glove to a shot that was deflected off Mäkelä and heading for the top corner. Kevin Wehrs who had taken  a hit along the boards a few minutes before left the game for the dressing room with three minutes left and shortly after the Flyers leveled the game. Lajeunesse from the circles one timed a pass from Jonas Emmerdahl that snuck through the arm of Greenfield. With 70 seconds remaining Greenfield produced a pad save from a Giles shot and the rebound was sent just wide by Lajeunesse.

With Wehrs back on the bench the Flyers were first to threaten in the second period as Brady Pouteau fired one in from the blueline that Greenfield knocked out and Pulkkinen fired it just wide. The Steelers took the lead again in the 23rd minute when Shudra came streaking down the left side and his shot from an angle went five hole on Owen. From the face off the Steelers went back on the attack and Shudra pinged the post. The Steelers did strike again quickly with a third 80 seconds after their second when they won the puck in the left corner and the cross ice feed was swept home by Balmas. In the 28th minute Josh Nicholls tried to bank one off Owen from behind the net but the Flyers goalie was alert to make the save as the Steelers threatened to run away with the game. The Flyers first shot in the period came in the 30th minute when Pavlovs got on the end of a stretch pass to test Greenfield. 30 seconds later and the Flyers halved the deficit when Pulkkinen with a great second effort behind the net got the pick out to Max Humitz in the slot who went bar down. The Steelers struck back within a minute when Nicholls provided the set up behind the Flyers net for Shudra to net his second with Owen sprawling helplessly to try to make the stop. In the 32nd minute Humitz tested Greenfield and the Flyers came very close to again reducing the deficit a minute later when Lucas Chiodo and Johan Eriksson combined with the latter taking the puck around Greenfield but from an angle could only hit the outside of the post. After that let off the Steelers responded with a killer punch when a collision to the side of Owen left the Flyers goalie prone on the ice as Sam Jones jumped on the loose puck to hit the empty net. The appeals for goalie interference were turned away as a Flyers player had knocked the Steelers player into Owen. The Flyers had the final chance of the period in the 38th minute as Collin Shirley in tight on Greenfield was denied.

The Flyers showed a positive response to start the third period when a couple of minutes in Humitz and Chiodo broke into the Steelers zone but Colton Saucerman made a great play to break up the attack. The Steelers went down the ice and increased their lead when Scott Allen won a puck battle in the corner and his centering feed was slammed home by Brandon Whistle in the slot with the Flyers defence all at sea. Worse was to follow just 65 seconds later when once again the Steelers won a battle along the boards and Nicholls was able to play the puck out to Mikko Juusola who had the time to walk it around Owen and dispatch it into the net. The Steelers were content to sit on their five goal lead after this and Humitz had a chance in the 47th minute when he broke in all alone from the blueline but Greenfield was able to stay big and make the block. Moments later however Humitz would not be denied as the Flyers this time came up with a loose puck in the corner and the feed out front found Humitz who roofed the puck on Greenfield. In the 50th minute Emmerdahl had a high shot bother Greenfield who could not hold it but the puck was cleared and the Steelers went the other way and regained their comfortable lead when Marc-Olivier Vallerand from the high slot beat Owen with a drive. In the 54th minute Owen blocked away a Kevin Tansey shot and moments later Nicholls was inches away from adding to the Steelers tally when his shot hit the inside of the post and bounced clear. Balmas had the chance to bag his hat trick in the 57the minute on a breakaway but Owen shut the door with a fantastic save. The Flyers clawed another goal back with just under three minutes to play when Humitz blocked a clearance and the puck bounced around the top of the crease before Collin Shirley poked it into the net. The Steelers had the last word however just 27 seconds later when again the Flyers coughed up the puck in their own end and Brett Neumann had all the time to pick his spot past the helpless Owen from the slot and give the Flyers a mountain to climb in the second leg.

The Flyers are next at home on  Sunday 14th April when they entertain the Sheffield Steelers – tickets can be bought online here:  Tickets – Fife Flyers or look out on social media channels for box office opening times.