“Hope dangles on a string
Like slow spinning redemption
Winding in and winding out
The shine of it has caught my eye”
Dashboard Confessional: “Vindicated”
The Fife Flyers are, without question, a team on the rise this year. After their heroics not only to overhaul an 11-point deficit in February to sneak into the playoffs on the last day of the season, the venerable old lady of Kirkcaldy is coming into 14/15 with a rejeuvenated, youthful outlook. A large part of this, it has to be said, is down to the influence of Todd Dutiaume and Danny Stewart-a coaching team that bleeds Fife blue and yellow and has the Flyers playing with true fire in their veins.
Kirkcaldy is a proud hockey town-arguably no other club in the country has more passionate, dedicated and knowledgeable support than the Flyers. Certainly, no other club has as much of a connection to its community, with the Flyers having been around for 77 seasons including this one and with all but one of the British players born within a few miles of the rink (and even the one that wasn’t was only born a few miles away in Edinburgh) This year, they’ll be hoping for the same feel-good rollercoaster ride that enthralled them last year-what does this Fife roster look like, and can it deliver?
#29 Blair Daly, #32 Kevin Regan
The Flyers have gone with the same pairing as last season in net-Blair Daly and Kevin Regan are both very good netminders capable of stealing a game on any given night, although the 30-year-old Regan will be the starter, with Daly more than ready to step in for spot duty/injury relief. Regan marked a 90% save percentage last year, although his GAA was slightly higher than some other goalies at 3.14. The native of South Boston is a scrapper of a goalie who’ll fight for every puck-in that respect he’s the perfect reflection of the team in front of him, and if he can improve on a decent first year, the Flyers will benefit hugely.
#2 Tom Muir, #4 Chris Wands, #5 Kyle Horne, #13 Euan Forsyth, #50 Matt Nickerson, #55 Kyle Haines, #60 Jamie Milam.
The Flyers’ defensive unit is very much a case of “evolution, not revolution” with only one new addition from last season in former Cardiff Devil Jamie Milam, coming in to replace the offensive output of last year’s stud offensive D Justin DaCosta. It boasts a strong local flavour, with all of the locals having grown up in Kirkcaldy and made their way through the junior system-Muir, Wands, and Forsyth are all no-nonsense, capable d-men who can take a solid shift while Kyle Horne is a genuine minute-munching workhorse who rarely makes a bad play. Fireworks will be provided by the intimidating Matt Nickerson, already a legend on the Forth after his one season there and a player whose outgoing personality and fearless, full-throttle physical play have made him an “honorary Fifer”. Kyle Haines is a steady, effective offensive D and new boy Milam will add to that, looking to prove doubters wrong after an unimpressive 13-game spell in Cardiff blighted a career where he’s produced impressively offensively (18 goals last year from the blue-line is some feat no matter what league you’re in). This is a solid unit.
#8 Ned Lukacevic, #9 Scott Fleming, #10 Stephen Gunn, #15 Josh Scoon, #18 Allan Anderson, #21 Bobby Chaumont, #22 Matt Reber, #23 Jamie Wilson, #26 Jordan Fulton, #39 Danny Stewart, #61 Chris Auger
Again, it’s a case of “evolution not revolution” in the Flyers ranks…they’ve lost Derek Roehl and a rotating cast of wingers, but gained Chris Auger and Scott Fleming from the ECHL’s Fort Wayne Komets…both of whom are extremely capable offensively (combined total of 46 ECHL goals and 104 points last time out). They’ve also managed to retain crucial pieces from last season in the very skilled Bobby Chaumont & Ned Lukacevic, the feisty and hard-nosed agitator extraordinaire Jordan Fulton and speedy two-way centre Matt Reber. The local boys are a mix of youngsters (Josh Scoon and Allan Anderson) and third-line contributors in Steven Gunn and Jamie Wilson, and of course there’s Danny Stewart, assistant coach, heartbeat of any team he’s on and one of the hardest-working players in the EIHL.
This is a forward group that is the very definition of “greater than the sum of its parts”. There may be some concern over the third line, although Gunn, Stewart and Wilson are a more than useful group they may not produce like some others. However, the productivity in the top six is more than ample, with a Line 1A and 1B rather than a clear “first and second” line.
This is a better forward group than last season for the Flyers-and more to the point it’s a more balanced one-there’s more scoring potential here than last year and with the defence behind them that they have it’s free to play, too…other teams will have to work hard to intimidate them and with the Kirkcaldy Roar behind them in Fife they’ll be a dangerous prospect.
COACHES: Todd Dutiaume (10th year)
The longest-serving coach with one team in the EIHL, Dutiaume comes into his 11th season behind the bench in Fife on a wave of optimism. Along with assistant Danny Stewart, Dutiaume has been the architect of Fife’s rise to a team taken very seriously by all, as well as a return of the “feel-good factor”. His and Stewart’s brand of hockey is exciting, passionate and devil-may-care, where players are encouraged to play with hearts on sleeves but at the same time be accountable-it’s a brand of underdog spirit that pays dividends.
Dutiaume is part of the fabric in Fife-he’s a legend there both as player & coach and the coaching position is his as long as he wants it. He’s served and continues to serve Kirkcaldy in the great tradition of Flyers teams.
Scott Fleming-Chris Auger-Bobby Chaumont
Jordan Fulton-Matt Reber-Ned Lukacevic
Jamie Wilson-Danny Stewart-Stephen Gunn
Josh Scoon/Allan Anderson
Jamie Milam-Matt Nickerson
Kyle Horne-Kyle Haines
Chris Wands-Tom Muir/Euan Forsyth
PLAYER TO WATCH: #61 Chris Auger (C)
The 26-year-old Ontarian is the player Dutiaume and Stewart will be looking at as one of the hubs of their attack along with Bobby Chaumont-he’ll be the creative centre who’ll load the bullets for Chaumont and Lukacevic to fire. He can also score himself-getting 28 goals amongst his points last year. Not the biggest of forwards, he may rely on skill more than physical play to do the job, but on the big ice of Scottish rinks and arenas where he’ll play the majority of his games, Auger will likely revel in his task.
The Flyers are a better team than they were last year-they’ve taken an already solid roster and improved it with some savvy additions and increased scoring threat with Auger & Fleming. They also have a truly passionate public behind them…the Flyers are entwined with the community and in locals’ hearts in Kirkcaldy in a way that’s almost unique in UK hockey-probably only Belfast come close.
This is a solid group. It’s one that will challenge every team, every night and has an excellent chance of building on last season-and with one import space remaining there’s still potential to strengthen further. The 77th season in Fife Ice Arena may be one of the most eagerly anticipated yet,