Saturday night’s defeat to Glasgow Clan suggests Fife Flyers are still trying to climb out of their mid-season funk.
A campaign that started with such promise has somewhat derailed in recent weeks, with eight defeats in 11 games reflecting a sharp decline in consistency levels.
Having one of their arch-rivals in town, as well as a bigger than normal pre-Christmas crowd, ought to have been factors that brought the best out of Todd Dutiaume’s men.
But instead they emerged from this game with question marks against their work rate after a mostly passive performance, and it’s becoming a worrying habit.
“It’s a work ethic problem,” complained Dutiaume. “I’m finding it difficult that this message is not getting through.
“When we work as a group we have a good, exciting team, but it seems to be getting fewer and further between.”
The loss of Chase Schaber’s energy and drive has already been felt for several weeks, but take Evan Bloodoff out of the line-up as well, and Flyers simply looked flat.
Joe Basaraba picked up the goalscoring mantle with two excellent finishes, but too many others on the night flattered to deceive, with occasional bursts not enough against a Clan side that played hard for 60 minutes.
Defensively, debutant Craig Moore aside, Flyers were again found wanting with the goals lost falling into the avoidable category.
Clan made the brighter start but Fife struck first in the sixth minute thanks to a speculative wrist shot from Basaraba that caught netminder Joel Rumpel off guard.
A generous powerplay got Clan back on level terms as Basaraba was penalised on for delay of the game after sending the puck over the plexiglas, despite there appearing to be a clash of sticks.
The visitors took full advantage with a cleverly worked move leaving Rasmus Bjerrum with a tap-in after Flyers left their back post wide open.
The game ran away from Fife in a second period mostly controlled by Glasgow.
Pete Russell’s side took the lead on 23.19 when Scott Tanski easily skated away from Mike Cazzola, before stick-handling his way past Shane Owen in the one-on-one that followed.
Clan doubled their lead on 27 minutes with nobody picking up Bjerrum as he latched onto a rebound which he could have walked into the net, such was the time and space afforded to him.
Flyers rallied in the third period but looked short on ideas until the closing stages when Owen was withdrawn for the extra skater, and Basaraba reacted superbly to control, and then finish, an awkwardly bouncing puck.
In the minute and a half that remained Flyers couldn’t find an equaliser.
They now have a short break for Christmas in which to address the issues before travelling to Dundee Stars on Boxing Day.