Dejected captain Jade Portwood admitted it’s “obvious” a clash of ice hockey cultures has been causing problems for bruised and battered Edinburgh Capitals after their losing streak stretched to 11 games with a 9-4 loss to Elite League leaders Braehead Clan at Murrayfield last night.
The Capitals management’s experiment of combining players moulded around a physical dump-and-chase style, favoured by the majority of teams in the UK and North America, with the puck-possession tactics of player-coach Richard Hartmann, seems to be backfiring spectacularly. In a feisty match, Caps posted a nonexistent defensive display that saw three players given their marching orders and Edinburgh defenseman Joe Grimaldi narrowly avoid serious injury after a punch to the face shattered his visor.
Canadian Portwood, in his third season working with Hartmann, still believes the Slovakian’s passing game is the way forward for the small-budget outfit and said: “Yeah it’s obvious (players’ natural game and coaching style are clashing), you don’t need me to tell you that, anyone can see it out on the ice.
“When I first came here I was only one of a few North Americans on the team and with everyone around you playing the system you just played the way you were told to.
“But it’s hard to adjust. You spend your whole life playing the game a certain way and then you come here.
“I have to give credit to Richard though because I think his style, with the small squad that we have every year, is the way for us to play. If you can’t afford a big roster you have to play possession hockey to conserve energy. The coach is in charge and we must play the way he wants. Either everybody here buys into the system or this is something the club will address and I’m sure they will.
“I don’t think anyone’s really on the same page. It’s frustrating because we have a better team than we did last year. I’m just so surprised – I had such high hopes for us.”
Portwood, who after the club’s wooden spoon showing last season spent the summer mulling over offers before being convinced to return to Edinburgh for whom Rene Jarolin (two) Daniel Naslund and Portwood himself found the net, continued: “It’s a big commitment to come all the way over here and stick with the Capitals. I love it here but it’s frustrating. You want to do well and come out every night and give something back to our fans.
“I never thought that we would be in the same situation we were in last year. You can’t point the finger at one aspect. Nothing’s really good enough right now.”
It was the second match between the two sides in as many nights, following Saturday’s much tighter affair in Glasgow, where Clan edged out Caps 3-1. Last night, things came to a head early in the third period. A punch from Braehead tough-guy Zach Fitzgerald left Grimaldi lying on the ice in a pool of blood. In the melee that followed, Fitzgerald and Capitals’ enforcer Riley Emmerson were thrown out the game and joined Clan’s Leigh Salters who had been ejected in the 39th minute for abusing match referees Rab Cowan and James Kavanagh.
Grimaldi, in his first game back after missing the last seven with a groin injury, was treated for a gash just above his left eye that required stitches. He said: “He caught me in between my legs with his stick and I pulled it out, they called a penalty on me, and then he came over and just hit me in the face.
“My visor smashed and that’s what cut me. Blood was in my eyes and I couldn’t see, and I went down hard because I wasn’t sure what had happened. I wasn’t expecting it, that’s probably a bit naive on my part, but you don’t hit guys when their gloves are on.”