Edinburgh Capitals suffer a Giant slice of bad luck

Capitals' Riley Emmerson and Kevin Westgarth of Belfast drop the gloves to settle a difference of opinion

Capitals' Riley Emmerson and Kevin Westgarth of Belfast drop the gloves to settle a difference of opinion

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Edinburgh Capitals forward Greg Collins admitted that match referee Tom Pering’s decision to award Belfast Giants a controversial third goal brought a “huge turnaround” in last night’s 6-3 loss.

With the game tied at 2-2 early in second period, an effort from Giants defender Calvin Elfring was not thought to have crossed the line by the goal judge, and Pering llowed play to continue. A frantic 60 seconds ensued as Capitals’ Sean Beattie broke and had an effort cleared off the line, before the Giants again lost possession and Jade Portwood lit the lamp with a fine finish. Play was brought back to the centre face-off circle but, after Pering consulted with his two linesmen, the visitors were awarded the go-ahead goal with a minute put back on the clock.

A disappointed Collins said: “Unfortunately that’s what happens, the referee waits until the next whistle and reviews it, which came out in their favour. It was a huge turnaround, the game really could have swung our way right there.”

The loss, which Giants sealed with an empty-net goal 13 seconds from time, made it ten games without a win for Capitals, but the performance was a big improvement.

According to Collins, if the Caps produce that level of intensity more frequently, they will come out of their slump soon enough. “The guys came out ready to play and we scored two quick goals, we have the potential, it’s just a matter of playing to it more consistently.

“We’re moving in the right direction, it was a big improvement, and we have plenty games left to keep it going.

“Belfast are right up at the top of the league, we gave ourselves a chance to win, and deserved more. We made a couple of mistakes though and were punished every time.”

This match had everything that has been missing from Edinburgh’s recent performances: tighter passing, physicality, goals and a spirit embodied by Capitals’ tough guy, man-of-the-match Riley Emmerson, who in the opening minutes drew a slashing penalty against, and then fought, Giants’ renowned former NHL enforcer Kevin Westgarth. Collins agreed: “It was great to see Emmers step up for the guys like that, it really got the team and the crowd going.”

Edinburgh scored on the resulting power-play, Lukas Bohunicky firing in his first goal for the club from just inside the blue line. Dennis Rix then doubled Edinburgh’s advantage in the ninth minute, collecting a pass from Portwood to fire past Giants goalie Carson Chubak.

Edinburgh’s tails were up, and it was important for the visitors that they scored less than two minutes later to get back in the game. Evan Cheverie outmuscled Capitals defender Loren Barron to get a stick to Ray Sawada’s centring pass and poke the puck past a sprawling Tomas Hiadlovsky in the Capitals goal.

Belfast were level in the 25th minute, Mike Kompon scoring with a shot from distance through a ruck of players that looped into Hiadlovsky’s net. They then grabbed a lead they would never relinquish, with Elfring’s disputed goal.

Edinburgh pushed for an equaliser, but Giants forward Adam Keefe pounced on a moment of slack defending scoring on a break-away to make it 4-2.

Edinburgh pulled a goal back in the 41st minute, Collins finishing smartly from a pass by Capitals’ player-coach Richard Hartmann who, in picking up an assist, scored his 200th Elite League point, although Giants forward Mark McCutcheon then added a fifth.