Can Flyers unearth another netminding gem?

Shane Owen is off to Belfast Giants - but who can Fife add to their list of impressive goalies? (PHOTO: Panthers Images)

With the news that Shane Owen has left Fife Flyers to head to Belfast Giants, it leaves Todd Dutiaume and Jeff Hutchins with the task of finding someone equally as good to replace him.  And you wouldn’t bet against them unearthing another gem?

Since the Flyers joined the Elite League in 2011, every goalie they’ve brought in has proved to be an excellent bit of business and while there are arguments to judge some above others, their track record in bringing in players they can entrust has been nothing but a success.

Owen has some big skates to fill in Tyler Beskorowany at Belfast, but his performances for the Flyers gave everything Adam Keefe needed to go out and persuade the 29-year-old a deal in Northern Ireland was what he wanted.

Recognising it was a big position to fill, Flyers brought in Garrett Zemlak for their first ever season in the top flight and while the campaign led their only absence from the play-offs as they treaded Elite League water for the first time.

A save percentage of .889 in his season in Kirkcaldy made him an impressive figure, not to mention stopping an eye-watering 70 shots from 72 in one game against Nottingham Panthers, Zemlak looked like a goalie destined for big things.

A poor stint at Braehead Clan the following year was to come and while he performed well in covering for an injured Stephen Murphy in Belfast, Zemlak’s time in the UK was a short, but memorable one.

Garrett Zemlak was Flyers’ first goalie in the Elite League (PHOTO: Fife Flyers)

In 2012, Dutiaume and then assistant coach Danny Stewart put their thinking caps on again and came up with Bryan Pitton from Bakersfield Condors, who would be joining the club with his brother, lett winger Jason.

Bryan’s stats stood up as well in a season that brought many positives for the club after a testing first campaign, but it was a season that proved to be another rung on the ladder.

Pitton moved to Allen Americans where he won the play-offs the following year and a year in Poland with Sanok has been followed by short spells at a variety of clubs in North America.

Kevin Regan was next to go between the pipes for Fife and is so far, the only goalie to stay for two consecutive seasons, such was the impact he had on them.

Helping them to their first play-off finals weekend, Regan couldn’t quite help them to the same levels, although he performed well again in what turned into his final campaign as a professional player, opting for retirement.

Fife were in the market again in 2015 and swooped to land David Brown, who had left Hull Stingrays after the club went out of business.

David Brown was outstanding in Fife’s run to the play-off finals in 2016 (PHOTO: Fife Flyers)

Brown had ended his time in Hull with a memorable play-off quarter final performance against Braehead Clan and did the same again in what was to be his highlight for the Flyers, as they defeated their rivals in a heart-stopping last eight clash.

A .893 percentage in the league was a decent return for him, but one year was all he had in Kirkcaldy before moving on.  The fans, though, would always enjoy that quarter final with the Clan and Brown’s contribution to it.

Shane Owen then arrived for the first of his two spells, starting in 2016 when the fans had another man with an impressive beard to worship and his performances were certainly worthy of their support.

So good was Owen’s contribution the first time around, it earned him a move to Allsvanskan in Sweden to BIK Karlskoga.

His return a year later was warmly welcomed and it was clear to see what he could do and the sort of saves he could pull off hadn’t left him, despite a year that saw him flit between North America and Poland.

A three-game weekend saw him stop 148 from an incredible 153 shots which earned him an Elite League Player of the Week award set the tone and Owen was on top form once more for Flyers.

Andy Iles hasn’t played since leaving Fife in 2018 (PHOTO: Fife Flyers)

Which just leaves 2017/18 and Flyers successfully filled the post with Andy Iles, another who did so well and had a crack at the play-off finals weekend, despite his final weeks limited by injury, but he was one that was popular too.

He hasn’t played professionally since leaving Kirkcaldy last year and at this time, it’s unknown what he’s up to, but with Owen on the move again, would he be one Flyers could call back?

Stranger things have happened, but it’s an area Flyers have filled well down the years and you would expect Todd and Jeff to get this part of their recruitment right.

Whoever they’ve brought in has never let them down and with a variety of good net minders come and gone, it will be interesting to see just who will come in.

It’s an interesting puzzle for the Fife management to work on in the coming weeks.

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