The one bright spot of a grim start to 2013 for fans of Edinburgh Capitals was the return from injury of Canadian ice hockey forward Jade Portwood, who said that last night’s 6-3 home defeat to Cardiff Devils saw his team beginning the new year by “displaying old habits,” in a terrible defensive display at Murrayfield.
The result, coupled with Saturday’s 2-0 loss on Tayside to play-off chasing rivals Dundee Stars, wiped out much of the progress made in the team’s December purple-patch. Now, owing to the fact that they have played three games more than both eighth-placed Stars and bottom club Hull Stingrays, over whom they hold a one-point advantage, a similar winning run is needed if the Caps wish to avoid missing out on a top-eight finish and a play-off appearance for the third straight year.
Portwood, who had been sidelined for three-months with a groin injury, said: “We were back into our old bad habits. I don’t think Tomas (netminder Hiadlovsky) had a chance on any of the goals.
“It just comes down to doing the little things right, like communicating and knowing where you are on the ice, and making sure you pick guys up, that’s what we have to change because the effort is definitely there.
“The groin feels a lot better but I’m missing a bit of conditioning and feel I’m a bit behind in every aspect of the game. I put in some good shifts, played my game and took the puck to the net. In the third period I struggled and lost some battles, but that’s down to the conditioning and I will improve.
“It’s amazing to be back. I’ve been gone for 23 games and I was watching from the stands when the guys were winning, and that was really hard because a dressing-room is a wonderful place when the team is doing well.”
Capitals were minus injured influential defenceman Brent Patry and solid two-way forward Peter Holecko. Both were sorely missed as Cardiff dominated the opening period, outshooting the home side 15 to eight and skating to a 3-0 lead through goals from GB international defenceman Mark Richardson, Jesse Gimblett, and the first of a hat-trick for man-of-the-match, Mac Faulkner.
An upset Capitals’ player-coach Richard Hartmann said: “If you want a chance to win against Cardiff you need to play for 60 minutes, not just 40. The whole team did not play well last night, or on Saturday night in Dundee.
“We came in with a big head, believing no one can touch us . . . that’s not how it goes. We battled in the second and third period, but against Cardiff that’s just not good enough. The main thing is that our leaders need to play and show their skill, right now that’s not happening.
“We really appreciate our fans are coming out to support us, but they need to understand we may have had some good results recently, we’re still a team that needs to battle every night in this league.
“Jade has just come back after missing many games through injury, Brent Patry and Peter Holecko are both hurt, which makes it really hard for us.”
The remainder of the game was a much closer affair and the bumper crowd of 1360 witnessed five second-period goals. Cardiff’s Chris Blight had put the visitors four ahead before Martin Cingel and Hartmann pulled it back to 4-2. That was as good as it got for the home side, however, as Capitals forward Curtis Leinweber and Faulkner traded goals, before the same player scored the only marker of the third period to complete a 6-3 win.
Devils bench coach Neil Francis said: “Our guys worked hard for their goals, we’ve got quality players on our team and when they go and do the right things and stick to the game plan, they’re difficult to stop.”