Braehead Clan savour homecoming win over Fife Flyers

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You could sum up this hockey match in four words. The better team won.

But you’d have to add a caveat. Fife Flyers worked hard across the 60 minutes, created some great chances and more than doggedly hung in there, but Braehead Clan always led, and that gap, however close, was one that they never quite managed to breach in a 5-3 Challenge Cup loss.

No hockey player likes losing, but there were positives Fife could take from their trip to Braehead for a game that was watched by a massive 3200 fans - and there were still a few empty seats dotted around the back rows of the Renfrew arena for Clan’s homecoming after five weeks on the road.

It was an absorbing game, one in which Fife played their full part - in stark contrast to the way they were rather steamrollered by an accomplished Braehead on Kirkcaldy ice earlier this season.

Some mistakes cost them key goals, Clan’s powerplay was red hot with three counters, and then there was the rock solid figure of Chris Holt in the net. As Todd Dutiaume remarked, he doesn’t make mistakes - you have to earn your goals against him.

And Fife did, but the jump they needed - an equaliser - remained just out of their grasp despite some great individual contributions; TJ Caig was tireless, Jeff Lee had some sublime moves and touches, and Michael Dorr powered his way through the 60 minutes.

On another night, with a different bounce of the puck, who knows ...

‘‘Their powerplay unit killed us tonight,’ admitted Dutiaume. ‘’It came alive tonight, but look at period one overall, and that saw the best individual plays this year from guys.

‘‘I also thought we really eliminated the threat of the rush by being disciplined. Once again a couple of mistakes cost us, but we have to take positives from this game, and there were many. We looked more dangerous, we created good chances, and we never ever stopped. We really needed one point tonight and we chucked everything at them.’’

Flyers were stung with the loss of a powerplay strike to Scott Pitt with just 59 seconds played, but they stayed calm and worked their way back into a very even open period of hockey, drawing level through Lee’s backhand strike at 8:11. The goal was no more, and he, than they deserved.

With 12 minutes played Lee’s great work on the back boards allowed him to pick out Kyle Horne whose shot was blocked, and Ryan Dingle was unlucky with the rebound.

Fast forward to 17:10 and Dorr couldn’t capitalise as the puck was trapped at his skates from a great set up by Fox, and within 15 seconds they were 2-1 down as Delahey went for interference. Brooks rang the red light.

Clan grabbed a huge third counter early in the third as Leavitt found the back door wide open - he started and finished the move which put some clear water between the teams.

Credit to Fife who kept going and were rewarded with a smashing goal at 26:49. Lee charged the puck down, and his drop pass was turned home by Caig for 3-2.

Shayne Stockton saw a shot ping off Holt’s post at 28:42 after Caig ghosted quite beautifully through the home defence, and Flyers then snuffed out a minor holding call against Paquet.

Again Clan grabbed an edge for 4-2 at 37:13 as Rik Jackman got the first of his double with a close range touch home before the hosts ended the period down to three skaters - Harper going for slashing and then Heywood for interference.

The penalty carried into the start of the third but Clan’s kill unit did its job, pushing Fife to the margins of the pad.

Braehead looked strong in the final period as they homed in on the win, but they found David Brown in solid form between the pipes. It took Jackman’s second PP at 47:51 to give them a three-goal cushion.

Again Fife kept going, looking for the opening that could lead to a lifeline, They got it when Dingle tapped in for 5-3 at 57:36 but time was against them.

Flyers were on a PP and pulled Brown to increase their numerical advantage. They saw the puck go in and a goal given only for it to be washed out slightly belated by the ref who ruled the nets had come off before the puck crossed the lines.

As the clock ticked down, Jeff Lee made a clumsy, slightly tired hit on the boards which saw him ejected on a five plus game for checking from behind.