Ice Hockey: Injury-hit Capitals unlucky in penalty loss to Coventry

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Edinburgh Capitals player-coach Richard Hartmann declared himself “happy”, after his injury-hit team battled hard to earn an Elite League point in a 3-2 penalty shootout loss to Coventry Blaze at Murrayfield last night.

Capitals were without Slovakian defensive trio Jozef Sladok, Tomas Valecko and Martin Petrina but still managed to take the strong Midlands outfit all the way in arguably their best performance of the season.

Hartmann said: “We played really well, big thumbs up to everybody. We were short on the bench, but we played our best and everyone gave everything out on the ice. With a little more luck we could have had the two points.”

Capitals, playing their third game in as many nights, started the match with only three fit defensemen, and Hartmann made the decision that he should be the one to drop back to cover for his injured team-mates, and played a great game in an unfamiliar defensive role.

He said: “I just want to work for the team. I’m happy to be here and will do anything to get them success.”

Man-of-the-match honours for the home side went to Welsh goalie Nathan Craze, who made 41 saves on the night, and the former Belfast Giant’s performance drew praise from Blaze and team GB head coach Paul Thompson.

Thompson said: “It was actually me who recommended Nathan to Scott [Capitals owner Scott Neil], and recommended he should really get a starters job in the Elite League. I think he spent the first month of the season just getting into a rhythm of being a starting goalie, and now he’s looking solid, he’s really quick post to post, and is square to the puck. He’s doing a great job.”

Coventry Blaze had the majority of the play, but had to come back from two goals down to take the game into overtime, and sow the seeds for their penalty shot win, the decisive strike coming from 20-year-old rising English star Robert Farmer.

Despite the win, Thompson had plenty of positive things to say about the Edinburgh club: “They were very committed, blocking shots and playing hard. In the second period I think they only had one real chance and they scored from it. Ultimately we managed to battle back and win in penalty shots, but I’m very impressed with the coaching here, and the systems they play. They’re a hard team to break down.”

In an exciting, low-scoring game, Capitals took the lead in the 19th minute with a power play goal. A Hartmann slap-shot from the blue line was deflected in by hard-working forward Peter Holecko.

Blaze pushed for an equaliser and had numerous chances, but a combination of gutsy defending and top-drawer goaltending from Craze kept the Coventry men at bay, before home captain Jan Safar managed to work free on the right, centring the puck for Capitals’ and Elite League leading scorer Rene Jarolin to fire past Blaze goalie Peter Hirsch at 37.30.

The third period was only 30 seconds old when a defensive error by Jan Safar allowed Blaze forward Mastic Kralj to score from close range.

Coventry continued to press but there was a degree of fortune with their equalising goal scored at 45.32. American defenceman Jerramie Domish attempted a slap-shot, breaking his stick. The shattered stick deflected the puck into the path of Blaze new signing Frantisek Bakrlik, who poked the puck past the wrongfooted Craze.

Five minutes of sudden death overtime could not produce a goal for either team, setting the scene for Farmer’s winner in the penalty shootout.

On Saturday night Capitals lost 2-0 to Braehead Clan in Glasgow. This followed a 2-1 for Capitals at Dundee on Friday.