Ice Hockey: Rays of light for Caps after shootout victory

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EDINBURGH CAPITALS skipper Jan Safar says Jiri Hanzal’s elevation to match-winner on a dramatic night of ice hockey was down to the decision of coach Jock Hay to put his countryman forward for penalty shots.

In a match that could have gone either way, Hanzal not only scored his first-ever goal for the club, but placed his one-on-one with Christian Boucher past the Hull Stingrays keeper to seal a 7-6 win after a shootout for the Murrayfield men.

Safar said afterwards: “I wouldn’t have minded taking a penalty shot, but the coach decides and that’s why Jiri took one. He’s got the Czech hands, so I always knew he would score his.

“We always practice and whoever is on fire usually gets to take them in the game. Jiri has been consistent so it was the coach who decided. I wouldn’t mind taking one, but Jiri deserves his chance and he worked hard.”

Hull’s visit to Scotland this weekend was already soured when they lost 4-2 at Braehead on Saturday, so last night’s match in Edinburgh took on extra significance for them.

Rays forward Jereme Tendler may have scored five goals over the course of the weekend – including a hat-trick at Murrayfield – but he was unable to take any positives from two games that would have been tagged “must-wins”.

Tendler said: “It was probably entertaining for the fans to watch, certainly, but the feeling in the dressing-room isn’t good to be honest after what has been a disappointing weekend. We had guys missing, but that’s no excuse. We didn’t stick to the gameplan. In any other game, to go away and get a point would normally be a positive, but we came to Scotland looking to get more than that. It’s hard to explain why we haven’t to be honest.”

The man of the match accolades for Czech centre Hanzal were rightly deserved for a rollercoaster game that saw the Stingrays take an early two-goal lead through Derek Campbell and a netbuster from Sam McCluskey from just inside the blue line. With the Caps on a three-game losing streak, which included Friday’s 6-2 loss at Nottingham Panthers, they needed to pull something out of the bag and did so when Marcis Zembergs swept a goal back. What followed was sheer drama, with Campbell adding Hull’s third then Rene Jarolin grabbing the Caps’ second before Sean Menton blasted one from the centre past Boucher to equalise. Menton had a hand in Edinburgh going ahead when his square pass across the Hull crease found Zembergs arriving late to smash into the net. However the joy didn’t last as Tendler scored twice before the end of the second session to put the visitors 5-4 up.

The Capitals began the third period in feisty mood and Richard Hartmann levelled again with a tap-in before Hanzal smashed in a chance set up by his player-coach as Edinburgh took the lead again. However Tendler completed his hat-trick on the powerplay on 47:22 to equalise once more. Jason Silverthorn came closest to sealing a win for Hull in overtime when his effort crashed off the post, but it was penalty shots that ultimately decided this enthralling contest. Zembergs and Tendler scored theirs to make it 1-1.

Then it came down to Hanzal after Dominic Osman saw his chance stopped by Caps netminder Nathan Craze and the Caps No 8 took his chance, beating Boucher to clinch the Caps’ first win in four matches.

As for Friday’s match in Nottingham, Panthers went 4-0 up within half an hour. Goals from Bari McKenzie and Peter Holecko softened the blow for Edinburgh, but they ended up crashing to a 6-2 defeat.