Edinburgh Capitals player-coach Richard Hartmann felt poor passing and indiscipline cost his side as they went down 2-1 to Belfast Giants in a bruising Challenge Cup clash at Murrayfield.
However, Hartmann praised much of his side’s performance in their season opener against last season’s Elite League ice hockey champions. He said: “The effort was there, we played a hard 60 minutes, lacked a little bit of intelligence with the puck and that was the difference. But we have a lot of positives to look back on and take into the rest of the season.
“We set up how we wanted to play, we killed a lot of penalties and we had power-plays of our own that we didn’t capitalise on. We need to work on our passing quality and our transition from the defence to the forwards because that’s what was lacking.”
With just under eight minutes left and with Edinburgh chasing an equaliser, debutant Joe Grimaldi reacted angrily to being slashed by Giants’ man-of-the-match Kevin Saurette, and was thrown out of the remainder of the game by referee Neil Wilson, giving the Giants a five-minute power-play.
On being asked what he told his players after the match, Hartmann said: “I told them it was a good performance, but the one thing that can’t happen is what happened with Joe. Whatever toughness we’re putting in, we need to do it for the team not for ourselves.
“If you get slashed sometimes you just have to take it. We were killing a five-minute penalty towards the end of a match and that’s not the way we needed it to go. Belfast were getting a little bit tired, and with eight minutes to go we should have been putting pressure on them to get back level, but that penalty stopped us a little bit and it can’t happen.”
Edinburgh came out hard in an entertaining game. None more so than summer signing Riley Emmerson, whose hit in only the second minute on Giants’ Kevin Phillips saw the GB-International defenceman leave the ice and fail to return.
Despite the defeat, Emmerson felt the Caps had laid down an early season marker of intent.
He said: “A tough loss, but we made a statement that we can play with any team in this league. We’re big, we have speed and we have skill. We created plenty of chances.
“We’ve only been together as a full roster for a couple of days. We need a couple more practices and games under our belts and we’ll start clicking.
“If we stick to the systems and our game plan it’s going to mean good things for the rest of the season.”
Despite the bright start by the home side, the wind was soon knocked out of Capitals’ sails when Saurette scored twice in the 13th and 27th minutes. The first was a hard shot from the top of the right circle that squeezed through Capitals goalie Tomas Hiadlovsky. The second was a tap-in after good work from Colin Shields and Ray Sawada.
A debut goal from Capitals forward Greg Collins, latching on to an Emmerson pass and rifling a shot high past Giants net-minder Stephen Murphy, halved the deficit midway through the second period. Edinburgh then enjoyed a great spell and only a terrific double save from Murphy denied Grimaldi from range, before his stop from Rene Jarolin kept the Giants in front.
That was as good as it got for Edinburgh, who lost Collins early in the third period after the puck struck him to the mouth. The American was taken straight to hospital, and is expected to be out for at least three games. The first is a re-match with Belfast in Northern Ireland on Friday.