Old pals Milan and Finucci relishing Forth derby battle
Ice hockey is a small community that spans the globe.
Players can sign for a team on another continent, and the first person they’ll see when they walk into the dressing-room is a friend from college, or an opponent from ‘back home.’
Years may lapse between meetings, but the shared love of the game will quickly rekindle memories of days gone by.
South Queensferry was the perfect halfway meeting point for Fife Flyers’ winger Carlo Finucci and Edinburgh Capitals’ Garrett Milan to catch up ahead of this weekend’s key game.
It’s a decade since their paths first crossed back in north America.
The Burnaby Express in British Columbia was the team which first brought them together.
Finucci was in his third season with his home town team, and was the team’s leading points scorer with a very healthy 99 points.
That was in season 2007/08, and Milan, a native of Whistler in British Columbia, was just taking his first steps in his hockey career.
“I was 16 when I tried out for the Express, and Carlo was 20,” he recalled.
“I got to play with him which was great – he was one of the most skilled guys in the league – top-three in the scoring.
“That was cool. I was a young guy coming into the sport, and when you see someone like that, you want to play like him.
The young players went their separate ways and hit the road, ending up on either side of the Forth bridges.
Finucci skated with the University of Alaska Fairbairns from 2008-2011 and then hit the desert to lace up with Las Vegas Wranglers, and then on to Denmark to play with Rungsted Ishockey before arriving in the UK. He served his time with Swindon in the lower leagues before jumping at the chance of playing top flight hockey in Fife.
Milan, meanwhile, took his skates to the Penticton Vees in the BCHL for a couple of seaons before moving on to the WCHA and a slot with St Cloud State before joining Edinburgh in 2015.
“Hockey is a small world’ he said. “You go on eliteprospects and you see guys you have skated with and see how they have done.
“It’s good we have made it to where we want to be.
“It’s funny when you go up against a former team-mate after all these years – you were in the same dressing-room years ago. Now you are up against them.”
On Sunday, both will be chasing a win for the same reason – to make the play-offs.
Flyers are on course for the post-season championships, but still need to clinch their spot mathematically, while Caps are mounting a sustained push to get off the bottom of the table and find a top eight spot.
Add in the long-standing rivalry between the clubs – a history which can be traced back to the 1950s, and which remains one of the greatest in British ice hockey – and the stage is set for an intriguing game in Kirkcaldy on Saturday night.
“It’s a huge game,” said Milan.
“Being here for a year you start to understand it (the rivalry) a bit more. Some guys weren’t sure.
“Two bridges separate us, some folk in Edinburgh are Fife fans and vice verssa so that builds up the rivalry even more
“The fans love it – they want the win more than we do!
“You hear it every week as fans message you, and chat on social media, saying ‘beat those Fifers!’
“It’s fun and it adds to the game.”
For Finuccci, it’s a one-game weekend – and a must-win game.
Flyers posted a huge 6-3 victory over title-chasing Sheffield last weekend, and he hopes that will get the team going as it starts to wind up for the run-in.
“This is a big game for us,” he said. “It’s a one-game weekend so we can throw all our efforts into the one game and don’t have to save anything for a second game on Sunday. We need to drain the tank.
“These are the only two points available this weekend so we have to take them.”
The buzz from the Steelers’ victory was still evident in training, and with Ryan Dingle, team captain and leader, due back in the line-up, the winger is looking forward to a good match.
“Everyone is desperate for points this time of the year whether you are going for a title or fighting for the play-offs.” he said.
“There isn’t a big gap from the bottom clubs to the back of the pack. They are all gunning for it. It is a crucial game for everyone including ourselves – we still need to clinch that play off spot
“Caps had our number earlier in the season, but we have had the last few wins against them – so our aim now is to stay healthy, get on a good pace and get our confidence going.
“This is a big game to get ourselves into a good mindset to play our best hockey for the play offs.”