Edinburgh Capitals drop down table as dire form continues

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EDINBURGH CAPITALS suffered a 6-3 home loss at the hands of Sheffield Steelers last night, completing a weekend double for the title-chasing South Yorkshire outfit over the Murrayfield men.

The result sees Capitals drop to eighth place in British ice hockey’s Elite League – a league spot away from dropping out of the play-off zone – and extends a dismal run of form to one win in 15 matches. It left player/coach Richard Hartmann to blame the defeat on a poor start and some ruthless Steelers finishing.

He said: “Overall, we played well, but made a couple of early mistakes, which they scored from and you can’t play from 2-0 down against a team like that.

“I’m disappointed but I’ve got to look at the positives. We battled hard right till the end, created some good chances and were a little bit unlucky. When their big chances to score came along, they took them.”

Steelers, the current league champions, now trail leaders Belfast Giants by only seven points and are many people favourites to retain their title as they hold six games in hand over the Ulster club.

With ex-Capital and current Giants’ coach Doug Christiansen watching from the stands, Sheffield led from as early as the second minute and despite some good spells of play from the home side, always looked the likely winners, much to the delight of Steelers player/coach Ryan Finnerty.

The Canadian said: “It’s tough to come up here, and play the two games in two nights. They’re a quality team with a lot of offence so it’s pleasing to get the win and complete a four point weekend.

“We’re sitting in a good position [in the league] but at the end of the day, if you don’t do well with your games in hand, and continue to pick up wins, ultimately you’re not going to be successful.

“We scouted big Doug’s team when they played on Friday in Braehead, so I guess tonight he’s returning the favour. There’s still a lot of hockey to be played and it’s going to be a tight race.”

Steelers’ veteran GB international Ashley Tait opened the scoring after only 68 seconds with a speculative slap-shot which caught out Capitals’ goalie Nathan Craze, before Edinburgh’s defence allowed the same player far too much room to skate down the left wing to set up Steve Birnstill to score his first of the night with a pretty backhand finish after eight minutes.

Edinburgh scoring sensation Rene Jarolin missed a great chance to pull a goal back, firing wide at an empty net after being set up by Hartmann, but the popular Slovakian atoned for his error by scoring his 35th goal of the season on the power-play at 15.15.

Birnstill and Capitals’ Peter Holecko traded goals in an even second period, Steelers holding a slender 3-2 advantage after 40 minutes.

Sheffield regained their two goal cushion at 49.08 with Birnstill’s hat-trick goal, his shot from close range deflected past Craze off the skate of Edinburgh defender Frazer Goldie.

Capitals refused to lie down and again pulled a goal back with less than seven minutes to play, a Jan Safar pass one-timed into the net by Hartmann.

Edinburgh, looking for an equaliser, were caught short defensively less than 40 seconds later, Sheffield scoring on a breakaway. Craze saved Mike Ramsay’s effort, only for Matt Stephenson to tuck away the rebound at 53.25. With the home sides spirit finally broken, the same player completed the scoring with Sheffield’s sixth goal at 55.26

Results around the league mean Edinburgh’s woeful run of form has finally caught up with them as Hull move above them into seventh place after a 2-1 victory over Cardiff Devils.

Hartmann’s men, who now occupy the eighth and final play-off spot, hold a seven-point advantage over the improving Fife Flyers, who last night beat Dundee Stars 4-1.