RICHARD HARTMANN has urged his fellow Edinburgh Capitals troops to put aside their desire to be with their families ahead of the busy festive period and make sure the Murrayfield side continue their recent resurgence in form.
The Caps will play five matches in eight days, starting with tomorrow night’s Elite League trip to Belfast Giants, before they have an 11-day break to spend time with their families. However, they then face five matches between Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve. A large number of the team is made up of foreigners and Hartmann wants his players not to be distracted ahead of a “critical stage of the season”.
“We’re coming to the most difficult time of the season for a hockey player – from now right up until New Years Eve – when it’s easy for their thoughts to be on something else and not on hockey because they want to go home and spend some time with their families,” explained the Caps’ player-coach.
“It can affect performance. We’re trying to prepare the boys for some tough times ahead and to make sure we remain focused at this critical time of the season.”
Thanks to a three-game winning run, the Caps have moved off the bottom of the league and Hartmann has been buoyed by the improved displays.
“Things have been going pretty well the last few weeks,” he said. “I’m happy for the boys because we have stuck together as a team and finally things are moving in the right direction.
“I’m always saying if we stick to our system we can beat any team in the league, but as soon as we stop skating or switch off, nothing works for us. It’s important to give our full respect to every opponent we play against, but we must never be scared of them.”
Indeed, the way Edinburgh have turned around their form of late, they can go into tomorrow’s match at the Odyssey Arena still very much the underdogs, but showing no fear, especially after chalking up a 5-3 victory over Belfast the last time the two sides met at Murrayfield in November.
Hartmann was keen not to reminisce, however, and said: “We did beat them here, but win or lose we never look to the past only to the future. Belfast are one of the best teams in the league. It’s always a tough place to go, and it will be extremely difficult to get a result as they are especially strong at home. We’ve prepared well, we’re ready to roll and if everyone gives it their maximum effort we’ll give ourselves a chance to take something from the game.”
Belfast, five points clear of Braehead Clan in the title race, will be keen to put on a show in front of their home fans in a match which sees them return from a run of eight straight games on the road, a stretch which saw them win six times. Their only defeats came against Edinburgh and last time out on Tuesday when they were hammered 8-3 by last year’s league champions, Nottingham Panthers.
Edinburgh Caps complete their weekend with a home match on Sunday against Conference rivals Hull Stingrays (face-off 6pm). Currently, Edinburgh trail both Hull and Cardiff Devils by two points and depending on tomorrow’s results, a win could see them move into a play-off spot.