Fife Flyers look set to hand their British players more ice time after another deflating performance saw them slump to a 13th successive defeat.
Todd Dutiaume, head coach, again suggested some of his players were deep in a comfort zone because the club has opted not to make any changes to the roster signed in summer.
It is now rooted to the bottom of the table, and faces a real battle to find a way back into a play-off spot.
In the wake of a 5-2 loss to Coventry Blaze, he said the decision to cut the bench and leave British skaters Jordan Buesa and Bari McKenzie on the bench for the second period, was wrong.
Dutiaume explained: “The game plan was to roll four lines all night long, doubling up a centreman with Jordan and Bari.
“We came out, got scored on early. We looked at the goals quickly. I put my hand up in front of them and think probably, the rwong guys were punished for that.
“We have guys here to produce and play both ways and we are simply not doing that.”
Describing the performance, and the position the team is in, as “extremely frustrating, Dutiaume said: “When things look grim, guys start doing too much and generate individual points to try to find a job next year. It’s a vicious cycle.”
The coach said he held his hand up in the dressing-room over ice time for the British skaters, suggesting rookie forward Scott Jamieson – who has had to ride the pine all season – will also get his chance.
And that could come at the expense of shifts for some imports.
He added: “It’s important that they are more than capable of playing a full shift.
“That’s on me.
“Scott has had a good season training with us and it is important to piece him into games.
“When I have imports skating around and not playing proper D-zone, Jaimo can be learning in these situations, Moving forward it is important that does happen. “If someone is not playing, I am not going to keep rewarding them with ice time.”
It is no secret the coaching staff wanted to make changes to the roster much earlier in the season, but the club has stood alone in not wielding the axe or strengthening the squad with any new faces.
Said Dutiaume: “Some guys looked far too comfortable.
“But when you don’t have the leverage to be able to pull a guy out of the line up and stick in someone hungrier and ready to go, guys know their number will be getting called for the next shift and next period. We need everyone to play.”
His comments came after a another long night at the rink where only 1011 fans turned up; another qorryingly low crowd which wasn’t lost on the coach: “The fans are still supporting us, but numbersd are dropping quickly.”
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Blaze coach, Danny Stewart – Dutiaume’s former assistant –declined the opportunity to assess what has gone wrong at Flyers, but his general observation summed it up: “When there is a lack of belief and confidence, it’s hard to get back.”
This game was lost in the first eight minutes, leaving the fans to endure another long, difficult night.
In that time, Flyers lost two goals but, worryingly, they never looked like responding or matching the committed, determined start made by Blaze.
Once again, they played catch-up hockey – we know how this movie ends – and, for the sixth game running, they managed just two goals.
However hard you press, no matter how deep you dig, you will never win a hockey game with such a minimal end product.
But how Flyers get more from a group of forwards which have fallen deep into a rut is hard to see.
So many passes were far from crisp, too many opportunities simply withered on turnovers and moves breaking down.
The Chase Schabre of old would have emerged with stats of around 2+2 from a game like this, but he toiled badly all night long. He wasn’t the only one, leaving fans frustrated as they saw Buesa and McKenzie left on the bench for the second period.
Only Mike Cazzola was above criticism as he dug deep in every shift, not only taking the MoM award but, appropriately, also netting the club’s 800th home goal in the EIHL.
That got Flyers back to 3-2 with 23 minutes played but, that was also as close as they got to a Blaze side which was more cohesive, and always looked the better side.
The night was surely summed up when Flyers bossed Blaze’s powerplay unit only to fall 4-2 in arrears within seconds of returning to full strength as Dillon Eichstadt flew across the crease and turned the loose puck past netminder Adam Morrison.
A series of penalties – some of them stemming from bewildering calls from the officials – only added to the growing sense of frustration on and off the ice.
The fact barely half the Fife team shook the officials hands at the end of the game said it all, but the stripeys didn’t cost them this defeat.
This one followed a familiar picture, adding to the sense of deflation on the ice, in the stands and around the entire fabric of a club that has badly lost its way this season.
Flyers are a team worn down by doing the same thing over and over, and hoping for a different outcome.
They were holed below the waterline by those early goals from the impressive Luke Ferrera - only the metalwork denied him a fine hat trick - and Charles Corcorran.
Paul Crowder’s 13th minute goal kept them in the game going into the first break, but Blaze always looked the better side and looked comfortable on their 4-2 lead.
Justin Hache’s last minute powerplay strike sealed a solid road win for the Midlanders, and left Fife marooned at the bottom of the table.
And every weekend they stand still, their play off challengers find ways of bagging a point of two.
And the gap grows ever wider ...