Hull Stingrays hauled themselves into pole position to clinch one of the three remaining Elite League play-offs spots when they hammered rivals Fife Flyers 7-3.
Jereme Tendler led the way for the East Yorkshire club with a hat-trick, as the hosts took advantage of Fife’s third period disintegration, which saw them ship four goals in eight minutes, Hull taking advantage of three powerplay opportunities, scoring five on the man-advantage in the whole match.
The result was payback from Hull following two recent heavy defeats at the hands of the Flyers, who remain outside the play-off places with four games remaining.
Hull, on the other hand, lifted themselves above Coventry and into sixth place by virtue of having more regulation wins, the two points taking them onto 50 points for the season - the most ever amassed by the club since they joined the Elite League.
With only three games remaining – comprising of trips this weekend to Dundee Stars and Sheffield Steelers before hosting their Yorkshire rivals the following weekend – Hull are now five points ahead of ninth-placed Fife.
“It was a tight game coming into the third and I didn’t expect us to win like that,” said Hull’s Guillaume Doucet on a night which saw him register his 48th goal of the campaign when giving Hull a 7th-minute lead on the powerplay.
“It was a really tough night and I thought it was going to be decided by the odd goal or something, so to come out on top 7-3 was surprising.
“It was good to get a few powerplay goals. It’s been doing well all season and it was really clicking against Fife obviously.
“I didn’t think we got the calls we perhaps should have done in the first two periods but then, in the third when we did get them, we scored on pretty much every single one of them.
“They’d beaten us heavily a couple of times recently and we knew coming in that we would have to be better defensively and do the little things to beat them and we were able to do that.
“We’re not taking anything for granted because it’s so tight down there and our last three games are all going to be really tough.”
After Doucet fired past Kevin Regan on the powerplay at 7.31, Fife deservedly levelled on their own powerplay when Jordan Fulton beat Ben Bowns at 16.39.
But the home side went in ahead at the break when defenceman Omar Pacha finished off a nice powerplay move in the 19th-minute.
Fife levelled again at the halfway mark through Ned Lukacevic, only for Jason Silverthorn to restore the one-goal advantage soon after.
Given how much was riding on the game, it would have been no surprise had Fife drawn level once again in the third. But indiscipline cost them dearly,particularly when a scuffle broke out in the 48th minute after Hull player-coach Sylvain Cloutier had given his side a 6-2 lead, a situation which prompted Fife’s Matt Nickerson to leap from the penalty box where he was serving a hooking minor to join in the fracas, a decision which saw him handed a match penalty.
By that time, the damage had been done as Tendler had already scored twice, the first coming at 43.16 when he prodded home at the back post after an inch-perfect feed from Matty Davies on a Hull breakaway.
Tendler doubled his tally for the night just under two minutes later, firing home a left-handed slapshot from a tight angle after a well-worked powerplay.
After Cloutier had handed his team a four-goal advantage, Tendler produced almost a carbon copy of his second goal when scoring from a similar position, again on the powerplay, at 51.59.
Kyle Haines reduced the deficit in the final minute for Fife but, by then, the damage had been done.
Understandably, Cloutier was delighted with his team’s performance.
“It was a massive win for us,” he said,
“We kept our composure and got the two points. It’s all so close in the standings you cannot afford to lose points, but the worst thing about it is there is going to be a really good hockey team miss out on the play-offs this season.”
“That shows how good and how close the Elite League has been this year.”