Ice Hockey: Edinburgh dragged into play-off scrap

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Edinburgh CAPITALS have been dragged back into a scrap for a play-off spot after a disappointing 4-2 Elite League home defeat to closest rivals Hull Stingrays last night. Giant Capitals defenceman Josef Sladok admitted his team, despite outshooting their opponents 33-25, “failed to show up” and, in particular, blamed a poor second period for the defeat.

The Slovakian revealed elements of the post-match team talk and said: “Coach (player/coach Richard Hartmann) has just asked us why did we not compete or show up tonight. We’ve got to move on from this, work out what went wrong and get ready for an important home game on Saturday against the Sheffield Steelers.”

Sladok, who signed from Hull Stingrays in the summer, continued: “We didn’t play well, we started out alright, but then we stopped playing and had a really bad second period and didn’t stick to our system.

“Bouch [Stingrays goalie Christian Boucher] played a good game. We had a lot of chances and power-play opportunities but couldn’t score, Stingrays, on the other hand, had one power-play chance and scored from it. Give Hull credit, they took their chances and won the game.”

With this victory eighth-placed Hull, who lost to ninth-placed Dundee Stars on Saturday night, have now moved to within a point of seventh-placed Edinburgh, a win man of the match Boucher hopes will play a big part in securing a top eight play-off spot for the East Yorkshire outfit.

He said: “This win is huge for us. Our coach [Sylvain Cloutier] has stressed all week how important this weekend is in terms of the play-offs. We all made a big deal of it when we lost the points last night against Dundee but tonight we made up for it. This was always a must-win game for us.”

The Canadian, who also turned in a fine performance when his side shut-out the Capitals 3-0 in Hull eight days ago, continued: “They’re a very skilful team who are patient with the puck. I think we’re now doing a better job of reading how they’re going to play, which has helped me have a couple of good games against them”

Edinburgh bossed the first period, looking the sharper of the two sides and firing 19 shots on goal but could not find a way past Boucher.

Against the run of play, Hull took the lead, scoring on the power-play in the 21st minute. Dominic Osman was allowed far too much room in the Capitals’ zone to fire a slap shot past goalie Nathan Craze.

With the goal the flow of the game changed completely. Hull began to enjoy large periods of possession, outworking the home side, seemingly first to every loose puck, much to the frustration of the Murrayfield faithful.

Edinburgh still produced chances, however, the pick of them being two excellent Boucher stops from Hartmann and Rene Jarolin sandwiched between a Peter Holecko shot that rung the post.

Hull also had chances to score and could have increased their lead before the 53rd minute when young British forward Andrew McKinney received a defence-splitting pass from former Capital Jason Silverthorn and fired a shot from close range into the top right-hand corner.

Edinburgh forced their way back into the game with less than five minutes left, Bari Mckenzie firing a hard cross-ice pass that was met by Capitals and Elite League leading scorer Jarolin for his 34th goal of the season.

With Edinburgh pushing for an equaliser, Hull forward Jereme Tendler scored on a breakaway at 58.55, a dejected Capitals side allowing the same player to make it 4-1 15 seconds later. In an extraordinary flurry of late goals at odds with the rest of the game, Hartmann scored Edinburgh’s second goal with 16 seconds remaining.