Despite a battling performance, Edinburgh Capitals lost their play-off quarter final second leg 4-3 to Belfast Giants at Murrayfield last night, the powerful Northern Irish outfit winning the tie 7-4 on aggregate and progressing to next weekend’s play-off finals in Nottingham.
For Edinburgh, the result brings down the curtain on another roller-coaster ice-hockey season, leaving players with mixed emotions as they reflected on what might have been, while taking heart from a strong second half of the season which saw them rally to sixth in the standings – equalling their highest ever finish in the Elite League.
Player-coach Richard Hartmann, who prior to the game was presented with this year’s Ice Hockey Journalists UK Coach of the Year award, said: “The guys gave me everything in terms of effort, but I’m still a little bit disappointed because we can play better than that. We created plenty of chances but just couldn’t score.
“We’re a young team and for some of our players it was their first time playing play-off hockey in a professional league.
“Since Christmas we’ve played some great stuff at times and after two close games against a good Belfast Giants, side we nearly made it a all the way to Nottingham. The players should be proud of themselves.”
Trailing 3-1 after Saturday night’s first leg in Belfast, Capitals defenceman Brent Patry revealed they felt that, despite the deficit, they still had a big chance to cause an upset and reach the finals weekend for the first time in their history.
Patry said: “We’ve worked really hard all season to get to this point. We said if we could come out of Belfast and keep it to two goals we would put ourselves in a good position.”
“We got off to a good start tonight, but unfortunately the goal we conceded from a turnover early in the third period really cemented our fate.
“When a game is so tight, it only takes that one chance, or maybe a bounce not to go your way and it can change everything. It was pretty deflating, but we battled hard right till the end and tried to win it.”
Edinburgh goalie and man-of-the-match, Tomas Hiadlovsky, finishes the year as the first Caps net minder in the Elite League era to hold a season save percentage of over 90 per cent and said: “I’m proud of the guys and the way we played tonight. They played so well and I want to say thank you. We were a very good team together, I’ve enjoyed playing in the games and I’ve loved my time here. I don’t know where I’m going to play next year, but right know I just want to enjoy the end of the season with my team-mates.”
Patry opened the scoring for the home side, shorthanded, at 16.03, before two goals, 90 seconds apart, by Noah Clarke and Kevin Saurette at 22.09 and 23.33 put the visitors ahead on the night, giving them a three goal-aggregate lead. Marcis Zembergs tied up the game at two a-piece with a stinging slap shot, which set up a thrilling final period, only for Giants GB international forward, Colin Shields, to capitalise on a piece of sloppy play behind the Caps net and score past Hiadlovsky. Michal Dobron replied for the home side at 54.58 and with only a minute left, and Edinburgh needing to score twice to force overtime, Hartmann threw caution to the wind, replacing Hiadlovsky with an extra attacker, only for Saurette to score his second of the game into the empty net at 59.27
With Hartmann and Curtis Leinweber already confirmed for next season, team co-owner Scott Neil assured fans that every effort would be made to persuade the club’s big names like Rene Jarolin and Dobron to follow, saying: “We’ll be involved in discussions with the players over the next few weeks and see where we go from there.
“One thing this year is that we’ve had a great dressing room. The guys have enjoyed one another’s company, there’s a real sense of camaraderie within the group and hopefully we can re-sign the nucleus of the squad for next season and build from there.”