Edinburgh Capitals undone by injuries to key men

Capitals captain, Martin Cingel, right, wants the team to pull together
Capitals captain, Martin Cingel, right, wants the team to pull together
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After a bruising weekend of ice hockey action, Edinburgh Capitals captain Martin Cingel cited injuries to key players as a major factor in his side’s 3-0 Challenge Cup defeat by high-flying Dundee Stars at Murrayfield last night.

Capitals began the game minus top forwards Curtis Leinweber and Tomas Horna after both players were hurt in Saturday’s 5-3 Elite League road win over Hull Stingrays. They also lost Jan Safar to injury midway through last night’s game when he was hit into the boards by Stars player-coach Jeff Hutchins.

Cingel said: “Without Horna and Leinweber, tonight was always going to be difficult for us, and then of course we lost Jan Safar. I think we can be proud of the effort we put in. We’re playing really short and for the majority of the weekend played with only two lines.”

Hutchins’ hit on Safar, which was not deemed a penalty by referee Alan Craig, resulted in the Czech defenceman striking his face off the plexi-glass behind the home goal. The game was delayed for several minutes as the player received treatment and blood was cleared from the ice.

Cingel continued: “Moments like that pull a team together. We were all battling hard for Jan. It’s really sad to see injuries like that, but that’s ice hockey. It’s physical stuff and sometimes things like that happen. We did well to create some good scoring opportunities, and Tomas Hiadlovsky was fantastic for us in goal. With a little bit of luck in front of the net we could have scored a couple ourselves and really taken the game to them.”

Tomas Hiadlovsky, who arguably had the best view of the incident and was the first to alert medical staff to Safar’s condition, was unhappy that Hutchins’ check went without punishment. He said: “I skated over to Jan because he was just lying on the ice and wasn’t moving. I saw a lot of blood and I started yelling for the doctor. It was a cheap shot behind the play. The guy who did it should be ashamed of himself.”

Hutchins, who spent two seasons with Edinburgh, and Safar are ex-team-mates and the American was adamant there was no malice in the hit. He said: “My take on it was I hit him shoulder to shoulder, he span around and hit the dasher. There was no check to the head or anything like that. I know Safy, I’ve played with him. The only thing I would say was that he was in a vulnerable spot. I thought he would know that he was about to get hit and would have been prepared for it. I don’t like to see any player go down like that; I’ve been in that position myself in my career. I hope he’s okay.”

Dundee opened the scoring in the sixth minute with a five on three power-play goal by Nico Sacchetti, deflecting the puck from a sharp angle after a cross-ice pass by Jerry Pollastrone. The visitors, who have started the season very much the form team in the UK’s top flight, with six wins from seven games, were the better team in the opening period, outshooting their hosts 12 to four.

The remainder of an entertaining game was a much closer affair in terms of the shot count, but Edinburgh clearly missed the quality of Leinweber and Horna up front, and when they did breach Dundee’s defence, they found goalie Dan Bakala in top form. Stars had to wait until three minutes from time to make the game safe, Sacchetti scoring his second, before defenceman Rory Rawlyk added a third, finishing a neat power-play move a minute later.

The loss is Capitals’ third straight defeat in the Challenge Cup group stage and leaves them rooted to the bottom of group A.

Edinburgh’s 5-3 victory over Hull Stingrays on Saturday was Caps’ first win of the season, snapping a four-game losing streak. Trailing 2-0, goals by Horna and a Leinweber double edged them ahead. Carl Lauzon had brought Stingrays level, before Martin Cingel scored the game winning goal with ten minutes remaining, player-coach Richard Hartmann scoring the fifth into an empty net with less than one second on the clock.