Ice Hockey: Stars clash is Caps’ ‘biggest of the season’

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Forward Bari McKenzie has described Edinburgh Capitals’ clash with Dundee Stars at Murrayfield tomorrow as their “biggest game of the season.”

The city ice hockey outfit – currently eighth in the Elite League – are looking to pick up a victory against their closest rivals for an end-of-season play-off spot, and McKenzie insists it’s imperative they collect two points against the Taysiders.

Capitals’ dramatic loss of form, which has seen nine straight defeats, and only two wins in their last 17, has ensured the race for the play-offs will go down to the wire, with Edinburgh currently holding a five-point advantage over Stars. McKenzie said: “This is our biggest game of the season so far. There are not many games left and, if Dundee win, it will give them the confidence to keep on going and push us for that play-off spot.

“We’ve been working hard all week for this, the bottom line is we have to win this game. Everybody’s beginning to feel the pressure and if we can pick up the win it will be a huge weight off our shoulders.

“We’re really pumped up for this and so are Dundee. We both know the importance of the game, and I’m confident that if we play our way and stick to our system we’ll come away with two points, and then we can kick on and pick up a few more victories before the end of the season.”

Despite the poor run of results, Edinburgh’s play-off fate is still very much in their own hands and Dumfries-born Mckenzie is keen to point out that, although there is disappointment that the wins have dried up, nobody is pushing the panic button. He said: “We have had a hard run, but we’re still playing the same way, morale’s still really good and everyone’s still confident we’re going to reach the play-offs. We know we have to start winning games, and if we pick up a win tomorrow that will give the boys back a lot of confidence and get us rolling again.”

Last weekend, the Capitals suffered home-and-away defeats to the Cardiff Devils. Over the two games, the Murrayfield men had no fewer than 15 power-play opportunities, but only found the net once with the man advantage, their second goal in a 5-2 defeat last Saturday in Cardiff. If the Capitals are to turn their fortunes around, capitalising on power-play opportunities is a must. McKenzie said: “We’ve spoke on this, but it’s easy to talk about it, now we have to go on the ice and actually do it.”

On Sunday, Edinburgh play their second home game of the weekend when they take on the Nottingham Panthers (6pm), in a rearranged fixture which was postponed from February 4 after heavy snow in the Midlands made it impossible for Nottingham to travel.

A visit from the Panthers would usually be considered a marquee fixture for Capitals players eager to measure themselves against the team with the biggest budget in the league, but McKenzie revealed his side are fully focused on the Stars clash tomorrow.

He said: “We’re not even thinking about the game on Sunday, nobody’s thinking about it at all. All the work we’ve done this week, all our focus, has been for the Dundee game. Once that’s finished with we’ll turn our attention to Sunday.”