Ice Hockey: Caps coach hopes his goals will inspire team to score

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EDINBURGH CAPITALS player coach Richard Hartmann today rued his team’s lack of finishing power and promised the squad will work hard on that aspect of their play ahead of this weekend’s ice hockey double-header.

Hartmann saved his team at Dundee on Saturday when his double inspired Capitals to a 2-2 Challenge Cup, Group A, draw against Dundee CCS Stars.

But, last night, early Elite League pacesetters Belfast Giants were able to leave the Murrayfield Ice rink with a 5-0 victory and two points. At least, though, Hartmann’s men have managed to break their sequence of defeats.

The Caps last earned a point on December 11 when they beat eventual Elite League and play-off champions and Challenge Cup winners Nottingham Panthers 5-4 at home, a total of 36 games ago. And their last road point was on October 9, when they beat Dundee 3-1, a total of 25 games.

Capitals, however, have lost their first four league games this season and are the only club in the ten-strong division to remain pointless. The frustrated player/coach said: “We had a lot of chances [at Dundee]. We scored two and got a point. Against Belfast, we also had chances but didn’t take them. We know we can play against anybody, but we have to concentrate for 60 minutes – not for just over a period.”

Hartmann, who has played more than 400 games in his native country Slovakia and in Germany, admitted his defence is under pressure and he expects his forwards to contribute to shutting opposing teams down.

“We must learn to take our chances and we’ll be working on that this week. I’m sure it will come and the positive thing is that we are making chances.”

The 35-year-old believes the team is getting stronger every week and on Saturday they face a tough test at play-off and Challenge Cup holders Nottingham Panthers.

Then they host Elite League newcomers Fife Flyers in the Challenge Cup, Group A, 24 hours later, a game in which Hartmann hopes to erase the disappointment of a 3-2 defeat when the sides first met at Kirkcaldy last month.

He is still assessing his squad and last night his plans were thrown when experienced utility man Martin Petrina was hurt in the 37th minute – by his own team-mate.

Under-pressure netminder Nathan Craze prodded the puck into the Slovakian’s face and he left the ice with a towel covering a deep gash under his month. He later had five stitches inserted. Capitals were 3-0 down at that point.

Earlier, Tom Dignard broke the deadlock after seven minutes and five minutes later it was 2-0 when Benoit Doucet netted.

Robert Dowd prodded home the third goal after 22 minutes and Brock McBride increased Belfast’s advantage with 52 minutes on the clock. Ryan Crane completed the scoring with 55 seconds remaining.

The home side were heavily outshot, 50-21, with 23 of them coming in the final session and only seven coming the way of former Capitals netminder Stephen Murphy.

He was adjudged “man of the match” and Doug Christiansen, Belfast’s coach, a former Capitals player/coach, admitted that the Dundee-born goaltender had played well.

However, candid Christiansen revealed it was not one of Belfast’s top performances so far this season.

The giant American said: “We leave here with two points and we’re still top of the table.

“Edinburgh, however, had a number of chances and Stephen did a good job.

“He and the team earned a shutout but we were not at our best defensively and we know we have work to do.”

On Saturday, Hartmann opened the scoring when he found the net in the 12th minute with a power play strike.

Stars’ player/coach Dan Ceman levelled at 22 minutes 39 seconds and comeback man A J MacLean put the home side in front in the 46th minute.

Lively Hartmann netted his second three minutes later to level the contest in which Capitals outshot their hosts by 31-24.