Ice hockey: Triple test of mettle as Capitals eye play-offs

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EDINBURGH CAPITALS face arguably their biggest weekend ever as three games this weekend will have a massive bearing on how far the club have come in 12 months.

This time last year, the club would have been happy just to survive amid crippling financial problems that saw them finish bottom of the Elite League as the whipping boys after weeks of embarrassing and soul destroying losses.

This weekend, however, sees them still in the fight for a play-off place, two points behind Dundee Stars, but playing second and third in the Elite League won’t be the easiest task. Hopefully by Sunday, they’ll be back to take on Fife Flyers with something to play for.

Captain Jan Safar for one is proud the club are going into the final regular season weekend with something to play for and remembers all too vividly the talk of the club not coming back after last year.

“People were saying the team was folding and wouldn’t be back in the Elite League, but everyone stayed positive and to be in a position where we could reach the play-offs in the final weekend is pleasing for me,” said the Czech defenceman.

“Going to Nottingham and Sheffield before we play Fife in our last game will be really difficult. But a point from either of those two – and a favour from Fife when they play Dundee on Saturday – would be a huge one.

“Looking back at some of the games we had earlier in the year, like one against Dundee, we should have won, but it’s come down to this weekend and we will all try our best and get a play-off place, which would be great for the club.”

The Capitals took great heart from their performance last Saturday, despite losing 3-2 at home to Coventry Blaze, especially on the back of a 10-4 drubbing in Cardiff two days before so the prospect of upsetting one of the top sides isn’t completely impossible. However, Richard Hartmann’s side haven’t beaten any of the top five sides this season and to get even so much as a point would take a Herculean effort, especially on the road.

If fortune favours the Caps though, a Sunday shootout with Fife Flyers could be on the cards and it’s the Murrayfield side that have the bragging rights in terms of having won five out of their seven meetings this season in all competitions.

The Flyers won a shootout on Hogmanay the last time they were in Edinburgh, but a lot has happened since then for both clubs and should there still be something to play for, the Caps could find themselves with a massive 60 minutes to earn their place in the last eight, with a tasty two-legged tie with Elite League champions Belfast Giants awaiting them.

Safar is hopeful that, depending on how things progress, the fans can turn out to give his team a final push and give them something to cheer about by the end of the game.

He continued: “The fans have always had a big impact and they get the boys going. We’ve had our ups and downs this year, for sure, as we have a young team, but the supporters have always cheered us on and have been there throughout.

“I hope everyone can be there for us on Sunday, but even if we don’t make it, this season has been a learning curve and I think we’ll come out better for the whole experience. The fact we made it this far says a lot about everyone at the club.”