IT WAS party time at Murrayfield ice rink last night, after Edinburgh Capitals concluded their regular season with a 4-2 win over Dundee Stars, cementing sixth place in ice hockey’s Elite League and their first play-off appearance in three years.
Capitals player-coach Richard Hartmann admitted the nail-biting play-off race had done nothing to help his grey hair, but hailed his team’s efforts.
He said: “We’ve tried to do the best by our fans who have gone without play-off hockey these last three years, and we brought in a great bunch of guys who have all worked very hard to make this happen.
“It has been a true team effort. When players have been out injured, guys have stepped up their game. The whole team have played a big part in this and I couldn’t pick anybody out.
“It’s done nothing to help my grey hair, but this is a great achievement for the Edinburgh Capitals organisation.”
Edinburgh had secured their play-off spot the previous night with a 3-2 victory away to Dundee in the first match of the weekend double-header against the Tayside outfit and last night’s win, played out in front of almost 2000 fans, guaranteed sixth place, and a play-off tie with Erhardt Conference winners Belfast Giants, all for a team that was rock bottom of the ten-strong league as recently as December.
Hartmann always believed Caps would turn their season around, and said: “For me there was never a doubt that we would make it. I thought we were playing well even when we were not winning games.
“All season we had been creating chances but not scoring. If you’re creating chances that’s good, because sooner or later things will turn around and start going your way, and after we completed our squad with the signing of our last two imports (Brent Patry and Curtis Leinweber) we really picked it up and started to play some great hockey.”
Standing outside the locker room, Hartmann raised his voice to be heard over the noise of the celebrating players, saying: “This is their night, I’m still a player and I know how much it means to them. I said to the boys do whatever you want tonight, as long as you come back on Tuesday fresh and ready to work. We’ve made sixth place, confidence is high, but we have a very difficult task next weekend against Belfast who are one of the best teams in the league. We will need to be prepared 100 per cent as we do everything we can to make the final four in Nottingham.”
Capitals opened up a 2-0 first period lead through Leinweber, and a 31st of the season for club top scorer Rene Jarolin, before Dundee pulled a goal back through Sami Rhyanen, after his pass from behind the net deflected off the skate of Edinburgh’s Peter Holecko.
Holecko, as far as the home fans were concerned, then scored at the right end when he was on hand to finish after a Michal Benadik shot had rebounded off the plexi-glass behind the goal of Stars net-minder Mark McGIll.
With eight minutes remaining, Dundee’s Mike Wiril scored on the power-play to set up a nervy finish, before Patry secured the points for the home side with an empty net goal 16 seconds from time.
The other quarter-final ties sees top seeds and league champions Nottingham Panthers face Fife Flyers, Sheffield Steelers play Coventry Blaze, and Braehead Clan up against fifth seed Cardiff Devils. Despite finishing below Edinburgh and Fife in the full league table, Clan are awarded third seed status by virtue of winning the Gardiner Conference.