EDINBURGH CAPITALS face Belfast Giants tomorrow at the Odyssey Arena – the only Elite League venue where current player-coach Richard Hartmann has failed to register a point in four seasons in charge of the club.
Over that time, Caps have played nine games at the 12,000-capacity arena affectionately known as the ‘O’ and have been outscored 56-10.
Club captain Jade Portwood admits Edinburgh have a serious lack of confidence playing the Giants on their home ice but, after winning four of their last six games, he’s adamant Caps have a chance.
Quietly-spoken Portwood won’t be giving any rip-roaring speeches in the locker-room ahead on an important weekend for the club, but will be looking to lead from the front where it matters most – out on the ice.
Portwood said: “It’s been a cool experience. Captaining a professional hockey team isn’t something everyone can say they’ve done.
“I’ve not tried to change who I am. I’m still a pretty quiet guy. It’s not my style to go in there and start hollering. If I did, I don’t think it would work as the guys would see I wasn’t really being myself so I try to keep away from that stuff.
“It’s more my style to get something going on the ice. The other guys respect what type of player I am and that’s what I try to do.”
While statistics suggest it’s ‘mission impossible’ in Belfast, Portwood said: “A lot of it is in our head. If you go somewhere thinking you’re not going to win, you won’t. You must have confidence going into a game and every year they have a strong team, they come out of the gate hard, they usually get off to a good start and, after that, it’s pretty hard for us.
“Right now, we’re taking care of things in front of Hiadlo (goalie Tomas Hiadlovsky) and playing tough in front of the net and not giving away so many easy goals. We’re communicating better and just doing whatever it takes to get pucks out of the zone. It’s defence-first stuff but it works for us. ”
The closest Caps came to an elusive victory at Belfast came two years ago in their play-off series, where they had a goal harshly chopped off before taking the lead but eventually losing 3-1.
Portwood, now in his third season with the Caps, reflected: “That year, we did go in there with confidence, because we had got the better of them a couple of times at Murrayfield and we knew we could beat them.
“We’ve had a good week in practice and with no games last weekend, we’ve had a chance to heal some bumps and scrapes we’ve been carrying. We’re refreshed and ready to go and looking to take something back with us for Sunday’s home game with Hull.”
With 11 games of the season remaining, Caps currently sit three points outside a play-off place. Sunday’s match with the Stingrays (face-off 6pm) can only be viewed as a must-win.
Portwood continued: “There are games we have to win and others where we’ll be looking to get something – Sunday’s game is definitely in the first category.
“If we keep playing the way we are, there’s no reason why we can’t catch the teams above us.
“We’re in the mix. Last year, we weren’t even close so it’s exciting. It’s why you play the game.”