Fife Flyers maintain play-off hopes as Braehead Clan stutter
Fife Flyers are taking their play-off dream to the final weekend of the season after wins over Belfast Giants and Dundee Stars kept them in the hunt.
The Kirkcaldy men have fought and fought over the last six weeks and are close to nicking eighth place, with Coventry Blaze, Hull Stingrays and Cardiff Devils now worried for their spot.
It was not ideal for the Flyers though, with Cardiff winning at Braehead Clan on Saturday then destroying Edinburgh Capitals on Sunday, but Todd Dutiaume's side are still in there.
And associate coach Danny Stewart revealed the ongoing message that's been conveyed to his team as the weeks have gone on.
Stewart said: "It's going to be exciting times in the week ahead, especially for the fans. But we've said to the boys all along it's all down to them essentially.
"We can put things in place and tweak things here and there as coaching staff, but it's up to the guys to go and compete and take their chances.
"Looking back, it was a great win over Belfast Giants then to scrape out a win in one of the toughest places to visit in Dundee makes it a fantastic weekend for us."
Those credentials for the final eight got a helping hand when they stunned the newly-crowned Elite League champions Belfast Giants with a 6-2 home win on Saturday.
Ned Lukacevic's opener for Fife was cancelled out by Jeff Mason, before Darryl Lloyd's go-ahead goal for Giants was pulled level by Derek Roehl, restoring Flyers' parity.
But the home side pushed on and further goals from Matt Nickerson, Bobby Chaumont, Danny Stewart and Jordan Fulton ensured a massive Fife win.
It kept them two points behind Cardiff Devils for that final play-off spot as the Welsh side churned out a 4-2 success at Braehead Clan.
Ben Davies opened the scoring for Cardiff before Ed McGrane found the net with the equaliser not long after. However, Jake Morrissette was on hand to restore the Devils' lead.
Tomas Kurka made it 3-1 for the visitors with what was a controversial finish, then Kenton Smith smashed one home for Clan to reduce the deficit with Davies adding Cardiff's late fourth.
Fast forward 24 hours and the Flyers found it tough to despatch Dundee Stars, but got there courtesy of penalty shots in a topsy-turvy encounter.
Stars player-coach Jeff Hutchins inflicted an early setback on the Flyers when he scored early on, before Tim Hartung and Lukacevic scored in the second to turn the game around.
Stars turned it around again with Hutchins again then Nico Sacchetti scoring, but Bobby Chaumont levelled again for Fife to make it 3-3, taking the game beyond 60 minutes.
But penalty shots were required as Lukacevic beat Dundee goalie Dan Bakala as the Flyers kept their play-off dreams alive going into the final weekend.
While this was going on, Cardiff stayed two points ahead of the Flyers by easily overcoming Edinburgh Capitals 7-2 in South Wales.
Davies opened the scoring for the home side and although Jade Portwood equalised for the Caps, five additional Cardiff goals settled the match in the second period.
The Caps put up little resistance and despite Marcis Zembergs scoring in the final period, it ended a sorry night for the Murrayfield men.
This added to a 3-1 loss to Sheffield Steelers on Saturday and the long-suffering Caps fans must be wishing for the end of the season.
As for Braehead, poor form continues to hamper them as they look to gain some momentum going into the play-offs.
After losing to Cardiff on Saturday, they stuttered again in Belfast on Sunday, going down 4-3 in overtime having led the game 3-0 at one point.
Ash Goldie then two from Joel Champagne, one either side of the first interval, put the Glasgow side into a commanding lead, but Giants' Calvin Elfring pulled one back shortly after.
Craig Peacock found another for the home team before Elfring added the equaliser, taking it to overtime where Mason nicked the win for Giants, leaving Clan reflecting on this setback.
The other game of the weekend saw Dundee Stars dispose of Hull Stingrays with relative ease as Hutchins's men surged to an 8-2 win on Saturday.
Lubomir Vaskovic and Sacchetti both netted doubles, with single goals from Hutchins, Kashirsky and Brit pair Vince Connon and John Dolan to seal the win.
Braehead Clan 2-4 Cardiff Devils
Dundee Stars 8-2 Hull Stingrays
Edinburgh Capitals 1-3 Sheffield Steelers
Fife Flyers 6-2 Belfast Giants
Belfast Giants 4-3 Braehead Clan (OT)
Cardiff Devils 2-7 Edinburgh Capitals
Dundee Stars 3-4 Fife Flyers (PS)