Goal hero Safar urges Capitals to ‘stay strong’

Curtis Leinweber scores despite losing his footing and sliding along the ice on his stomach. Picture: Jan Orkisz
Curtis Leinweber scores despite losing his footing and sliding along the ice on his stomach. Picture: Jan Orkisz
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Jan Safar today urged Edinburgh Capitals to make things “easier for themselves” after two weekend overtime wins took them off the bottom of ice hockey’s Elite League.

Last night, Caps won their second match of the weekend with a 5-4 overtime victory against a physical Coventry Blaze side at Murrayfield.

The home side led 4-2 with only five minutes remaining and almost let a deserved win slip away until defenceman Safar spared the home side’s blushes with a sudden-death winner.

Safar, who was also the matchwinner in Saturday night’s victory over Braehead Clan by the same scoreline, said: “It’s a great feeling, I’m happy I can help out the team with a couple of goals, but we should have won both games in regulation. We just need to keep things tidy when we have a lead and stay strong towards the end of games. I’m sure the fans loved it, but we should have made things that little bit easier for ourselves.”

The weekend’s results have moved Edinburgh to just two points outside of a play-off spot, and Safar continued: “Coventry is a great team, and they showed if we give them a little bit of space they’ll score goals. We just need to stick together and keep playing for 60 minutes. It doesn’t matter who gets the goals as long as we win and keep this run going.”

Coventry, playing their third game in Scotland in as many nights, brought up a large, loud travelling support which made for a great atmosphere and Blaze wasted no time in trying to push the home side around. Edinburgh’s Jade Portwood and Blaze tough guy Kevin Harvey dropped the gloves after only five minutes. It set the tone for a physical encounter; however, Edinburgh bench coach Jock Hay was delighted with his team’s response.

Hay said: “It was constant. Other games have been physical at times, but it was from start to finish. They tried to rough us up to upset our system but it didn’t work. Maybe they thought they could take advantage of us as we don’t have a tough guy, but keeping our discipline is something we’re really good at.

“They’ll stick up for themselves if they have to, like Jade did, but the lads have it drilled in to them not to get involved in things like that and just let the other team take the penalty.”

Edinburgh were very solid in the opening period, and led through a Michal Dobron slap-shot, scored in the eighth minute – a bright start that especially pleased Hay, who said: “Right from the word go they were terrific. On Saturday and last Wednesday against Nottingham we were slack early on and it took us a period to get going. We talked about that before the game, and stressed how important it is not to get ourselves in a hole early as we’re not always going to get ourselves out of it.”

Two goals, including a shorthanded effort, a little over two minutes apart by Curtis Leinweber had the hosts three ahead, before Blaze got on the board in the 27th minute, through Cale Tanaka. Edinburgh were good value for their two-goal lead going into the second period break, but a terrible line change from the home side resulted in a three-on-one breakaway. Michael Devin profited, finishing high past 
Hiadlovsky at 39.42.

Edinburgh restored a two-goal cushion early in the third period, Leinweber completing a marvellous hat-trick, stick-handling his way past Blaze goalie Mike Zacharias, and on losing his footing having the presence of mind to poke the puck into the net while sliding on his stomach. For the visitors, Shea Guthrie and Harvey scored two quick goals 90 seconds apart, tying the game at 4-4 with less than three minutes left, paving the way for Safar’s over-time winner scored at 61.15.