Ice Hockey: Edinburgh Capitals face tough Challenge Cup task after loss

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Edinburgh CAPITALS face an uphill struggle to qualify for the quarter-finals of ice hockey’s Challenge Cup after a 4-2 home loss to Fife Flyers at Murrayfield last night.

Capitals player-coach Richard Hartmann said he was happy with the efforts of his players, and that a few breaks in front of goal is all it will take to go on a winning run.

The Forth derby was a tight but scrappy affair, in which neither team found top gear, Fife sealing the win with a Kris Hogg empty net goal four seconds from time.

Hartmann said: “We got off to a great start, then we made a couple of mistakes which is how it is going for us at the moment. It affected our confidence, and nothing seemed to go our way after that. All this hard work we’re doing will pay off in time. Once we get breaks and rebounds going our way, everything will change.”

Edinburgh got off to the best possible start, opening the scoring in the second minute through Marcis Zembergs, 
after a pass from Capitals’ man of the match Jade Portwood. Dominating the early stages, the home side doubled their lead seven minutes in, with a power play goal, when Hartmann wristed a shot high past Bryan Pitton in the Flyers net. It was the only time Edinburgh scored on the man advantage, despite having nine opportunities, a statistic that Hartmann admitted was not good enough.

He said: “We didn’t play well on the power play tonight. We scored one goal, but had a lot of opportunities that we didn’t take advantage of. It’s something we will be working on.”

Fife were let back into the game after a rare mistake by young Slovakian net minder Tomas Hiadlovsky, who failed to hold a looping shot by Jeff Caister, spilling the rebound into the path of John Dolan who made no mistake with the finish. Flyers restored parity in the 16th minute, the Capitals’ defence allowing Fife player-coach Todd Dutiaume to plant himself in front of the net, 
unsighting Hiadlovsky from a fierce shot by Danny Stewart which was hit from just inside the blue line.

In a game where chances were at a premium, Bryan Pitton did well to stop Capitals’ captain Martin Cingel when he was clean through on goal, before his brother, Jason Pitton, put Fife 3-2 in front in the 29th minute, scoring from close range. It was a lead the visitors were never to relinquish. Rene Jarolin came closest to an Edinburgh equaliser when he struck the post early in the third period, but any hopes of a last-gasp leveller for the home side were dashed when, with Hiadlovsky pulled for the extra skater, Kris Hogg scored into the empty net at 59.56.

Kirkcaldy-born Flyers defender Kyle Horne, who previously spent five seasons with the Capitals, was delighted with his team’s win.

Horne said: “It was a good result, in so far as we didn’t play at our best but we still found a way to win. The guys have gelled really well, and there’s good harmony in the dressing room. Tonight is a good example of that. We worked together and managed to get the win.” 
On Saturday night, Edinburgh suffered another narrow Challenge Cup defeat, losing on the road 3-2 to the Dundee Stars. Goals by Cingel and Jarolin had twice drawn the Caps level before Stars forward Tristan Harper scored the eventual game winner in the 39th minute. With only one win in their four Challenge Cup games to date, Edinburgh will need to pick up points in their remaining matches, including home and away match-ups against fancied Belfast Giants if they wish to progress to the quarter-final stage. Next weekend, 
Edinburgh get their Elite League campaign off and running with a home and away double header against Conference rivals Hull Stingrays.