Ice hockey: Fighting spirit hailed as Capitals lord it over rivals Clan

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NOT only was Edinburgh Capitals’ weekend 4-3 win at Braehead Clan a historic first away victory over the Renfrewshire outfit but it was, for player-coach Richard Hartmann, the perfect tonic ahead of today’s ice hockey ‘Hogmanay bash’ at Murrayfield against fierce rivals Fife Flyers (face-off 4pm).

Hartmann hailed his players for their second-half performance in Saturday’s success, but took time out to criticise errors which led to the Caps trailing 3-1 to a short-benched Clan at the game’s halfway point.

The fact that wins, which only two months ago seemed so hard to come by for the men from the Riverside rink, can now be met with a ‘still room for improvement’ attitude speaks volumes for Edinburgh’s recent improved level of performance ahead of their final game of 2012 this afternoon.

Hartmann said: “Even trailing 3-1, we never gave up and in coming back every man on the team did a great job.

“We had a bit of trouble in our defensive zone as we were not picking up our men, which caused us problems.

“We got away from our system and started making mistakes that we shouldn’t be making. Guys were trying to do too much by themselves and forgetting about working hard as a team.

“In the third period we got back to playing our way which is what works for us.

“We should have perhaps scored more goals. We created chances – I missed an empty netter. Sometimes that’s the way it goes. In the end we were very happy with the two points.”

The Capitals were led by a two-goal performance from leading marksman Rene Jarolin, and a man-of-the-match display from goalie Tomas Hiadlovsky who made 38 saves, including one effort where the puck ended up down the back of his shorts.

The 24-year-old Slovakian had to leave the ice in order that it be retrieved and Hartmann joked: “I won’t tell you where we found it, but it wasn’t my hand that went in there to get it out.”

Edinburgh opened the scoring ten minutes in, Jarolin firing a one-timer past Braehead net-minder Garrett Zemlak, before Clan equalised less than 60 seconds later, hardnosed GB international forward Robert Farmer holding off Edinburgh’s Marcis Zembergs to squeeze a shot through Hiadlovsky’s pads at 10.04. Braehead enjoyed the majority of the play in the second period, outshooting the visitors 17-10, and had already scored a power-play goal through Ash Goldie when smooth-skating defenceman Steve Birnstill drew the Caps defence with a fake shot before snapping a quick release past Hiadlovsky at 25.46. At times Edinburgh looked all at sea defensively, but they were thrown a lifeline at 29.15 when Hartmann pulled a goal back, firing a shot in off the post from a tight angle after being set up by Jarolin.

The third period was a more even affair in terms of scoring chances and Jarolin, who had already seen an effort come back off the post, scored his second goal of the game, and 20th of the season in the 41st minute after Curtis Leinweber showed great hands to set him up after an initial slap-shot from Brent Patry.

It was left to Capitals skipper Martin Cingel to complete the comeback and score the match-winning goal in the 51st minute.

With Braehead on the power-play, Cingel forced a crucial turnover before carrying the puck from his own zone, before rounding Zemlak to score shorthanded.

This was much to the delight of the band of travelling supporters who were sitting behind the goal.

Speaking ahead of today’s game against Fife, which could see a return to action for Capitals’ Canadian forward Jade Portwood who has been back in training after missing 23 games with back and groin injuries, Hartmann said: “If we play our game we can beat any team in the league. The guys need to forget about Christmas and New Year and concentrate on the hockey. We need to battle and we need to work hard, and with that the wins will come.”