Edinburgh Capitals begin their Elite League campaign tonight away to Belfast Giants with player-coach Richard Hartmann promising fans they are going in “full of confidence” despite Sunday’s 2-1 home defeat by the same opposition in the Challenge Cup.
The trip to the Odyssey Arena, the home of last season’s league champions, is the first of three games in three nights for the Murrayfield men and Hartmann said: “Everybody knows how strong Belfast are, we have nothing but respect for them. We’re certainly not going in scared, instead we are full of confidence.
“We played pretty well against them last week and ran them close, but Belfast at home are very strong and it’s always a great measuring stick to see where your team is at.”
Edinburgh travel to Gardiner Conference rivals Hull Stingrays tomorrow, before returning home on Sunday to face Braehead Clan in a Challenge Cup fixture.
Already without the injured Greg Collins, who lost four teeth and received 13 stitches after taking a puck to the face on Sunday, the gruelling schedule will be difficult for Edinburgh’s small squad. However, Hartmann is adamant there will be no prioritising of league business over the Challenge Cup, a tournament many fans see as a secondary competition.
“Our number one priority is to win games and make our fans proud, which is something we did not do enough of last season,” he said. “As players we just want to win matches and go as far as we can in each completion, whether it’s the cup or the league. If we win games our fans will be happy and will be hungry for more.
“Losing Greg is a blow, we’d love to have him back as soon as possible, but it will be at least another week before we will have an accurate assessment of how long he will be out.
“We have worked hard all week on our passing and our power-play; I am so pleased with the attitude the boys are showing. Yes this is a hard weekend for us, Saturday will be a difficult game in Hull and then we have a big game with one of our Scottish rivals but we are fit, pumped up and ready to roll.”
Hartmann’s enthusiasm for his team’s work-rate is matched by returning forward Jade Portwood, who believes this season Edinburgh have signed the right mix of players to enable them to compete with the rigours of the Elite League night in, night out.
Portwood said: “I think we did pretty well in our two pre-season games against Dundee and we played well on Sunday against the league champions even though we lost. We’ve already shown we’re not going to get pushed around; we’re going to compete and skate hard for 60 minutes. The last three games have been the best set of games I’ve been a part of for a long time, and that’s down to our work rate, we just need to clean up a couple of things and we’ll be good.
“We have a lot of leaders like (Riley) Emmerson and (Greg) Collins who have been playing the game a while, and players like myself and Tomas (Hiadlovsky) have been here three years now.
“We know what we have to do to get the job done.
“Richard keeps telling us we need to play just a little bit smarter and slow the game down sometimes and once we get on top of that we’re definitely going to make progress this season.”