In terms of Edinburgh Capitals’ Challenge Cup ambitions, player-coach Riley Emmerson admits this weekend is “crunch-time”.
The Murrayfield outfit are aiming for two wins which could well be good enough to ensure a quarter-final place.
They play Fife Flyers in Kirkcaldy tomorrow night and host Dundee Stars at home on Sunday (face-off 5.30pm).
All five teams in Group A are locked on four points. However Edinburgh, having already played five games in the home and away round-robin format, are favourites to prop up the group and miss out on the knock-out phase.
Emmerson, who following last week’s energy-sapping three games in three nights, including a 3-2 overtime loss to tomorrow’s opponents, gave his charges the luxury of an extra day off training this week, but warned his players to expect a hostile reception in the Fife Ice Arena.
“This is a big weekend in the Challenge Cup standings – it’s crunch time”, said Emmerson. “We need to win both these games and, if we do, we’ll find ourselves in a good position to qualify. And heck, when is the last time Edinburgh did well in the Challenge Cup?”
“These are four big points we’re playing for, not just for us, but by winning these games we take points away from our opponents.
“Fife is a tough building to play in. I know I’ve said that to the guys a lot recently, about teams playing well in their own barn, but when they get to Fife they’ll understand what I’m saying.
“It’s a loud building, they hate us, and their fans are ruthless. It’s tough, just like we can be a tough team to play against in our building. The guys have got to be ready for that and I don’t want to say to them halfway through the game, ‘see I was right’. But I’ll be the first one to tell them that.
“Last weekend we had three games in three nights, and when you come home at 5.30 on Sunday morning to be back at the rink for 3.30 that same day it’s crazy, and takes a big toll on the body. You need two days of rest after that. We had an optional skate on Tuesday and still had a handful of guys who had a good rip on the ice.”
With Jordan Steel returning to training this week, Edinburgh are hopeful of a full-strength squad. However, Fife will be without Canadian forward TJ Caig after he was suspended for two matches following his game-penalty for boarding Edinburgh’s David Rutherford last Sunday at Murrayfield.
Emmerson believes Capitals match up well against both Fife and Dundee, whom Edinburgh beat 4-2 earlier this month for their only win of the season to date.
However, they must maintain their focus and work as a team for 60 minutes if recent results are to improve.
Emmerson continued: “I thought Brown (Flyers goalie David Brown) was phenomenal on Sunday. He made some big saves but we were nowhere to be seen in the second period. We should have buried them early with the power-play chances we had but guys were trying to do it all themselves which is something we’ve talked about before. We need to work together to have success. Fife are a good team who have good systems in place. However, there is no reason why we can’t live with them.
“Dundee has that huge line (former Capitals’ forwards Curtis Leinweber and Lou Dickenson, alongside ex-Flyers and Braehead Clan sniper Bobby Chaumont) that’s been doing very well, but are also backed up by another two solid lines who do a good job.
“I think all three teams will match up well with one another this season and they’ll be close battles all year.
“We’ve got to be on our game every time we play them.”