Overtime agony as Flyers down Clan to edge into play-off final
BRAEHEAD CLAN’S overtime curse came back to haunt them in the cruellest of circumstances as Fife Flyers sent them spinning out of the play-offs.
Trailing 2-1 from Saturday’s first leg in Kirkcaldy, Ryan Finnerty’s team were forced beyond the regulation 60 by a dogged Todd Dutiaume team, who struck with just 23 seconds left on the clock to put the visitors into next weekend’s Elite League play-off finals weekend with a 4-3 aggregate victory.
It was a brutal blow to a Braehead team that went into the game Gardiner Conference champions and with a support yearning to add to their trophy haul. Instead, their eighth defeat from 10 games after normal time brought a campaign that began with European hockey to an abrupt and painful end.
“There are a lot of tears and emotions in that locker room right now,” said Finnerty. “We haven’t won a shootout match all season and that is in the back of your mind, but I thought we played well tonight.
“It’s the second time in two years we have gone out in overtime and it’s hard.”
To say the tie had a bit of an edge to it would be understating the issue. In Kirkcaldy the previous night a battling Braehead got their noses in front in the first period, only to be denied with two goals in the last two minutes to give their hosts a 2-1 advantage that, on the face of it, they probably deserved.
Therefore, Clan knew they must get at least one if they wanted to keep alive their hopes of reaching the play-off finals for just the second time in their history. While they spent the majority of their evening in Fife killing penalties and defending with their lives, Finnerty’s team took the initiative in Glasgow to drag themselves back into the tie.
Apart from one save from Chris Holt and a Ryan Dingle wrist shot that came back off the post, Flyers spent the majority of their team in a packed-out Braehead Arena doing everything they could to frustrate and deny Clan.
Early on Tony Dahlman collected a great saucer pass to go through on David Brown but the Fife goalie did brilliantly to save. Braehead arguably should have taken the lead soon after on a quick three-on-two breakaway, only for Alex Leavitt’s guided effort to come back off the pipe.
The pressure continued to intensify in the second period as Braehead cranked up their onslaught, with the 3,000-odd home fans beginning to fear it was going to be one of those nights. That was until Stefan Meyer nearly blew the roof off with just three minutes of the second period left.
A shot from Leavitt was parried by Brown, but stuck in a cluster of players the netminder was unable to react quickly enough to Stefan Meyer at the back post and the former Calgary Flames forward slotted the puck away from a tight angle to level the quarter-final.
However, Fife would creep into the lead again with 13 minutes left to play. TJ Craig was the man who did the damage as he slalomed out from behind the cage, spun and sent a stunning shot flying high beyond Holt.
It was a temporary blip though that last barely 60 seconds as Clan struck once more. Scott Pitt provided the composed finish required, drilling a fierce shot beyond Brown at his near post to set up a grandstand finish.
A tense four on four period seemed destined for a nail-biting shootout, but Caig, who also netted the previous night in Fife, pounced on a loose puck at the crease to send the visiting section mental behind Holt’s goal.
NOT TO BE: Braehead Clan were stunned in overtime by Fife Flyers.