Ice Hockey: Hartmann and Co are game for a laugh

ONLY one win in 13 and now Edinburgh Capitals face one of British ice hockey’s most competitive teams – twice.

However, Capitals player/coach Richard Hartmann believes a renewed sense of fun instilled into his players during training this week could hold the key to success against the Elite League champions.

Capitals take on title- chasing Sheffield Steelers at Murrayfield tomorrow in the first of two home games against the South Yorkshire outfit this weekend and Hartmann hopes the double header (both games face-off at 6pm) can provide a springboard to a positive run of results after a 4-2 home defeat to play-off rivals Hull Stingrays last time out.

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He said: “After our poor game on Sunday, we had a little talk with the guys and discussed our bad run, the lowest point of our season. We’ve been trying hard but nothing’s been falling for us. On Tuesday we had a fun team practice and recharged our batteries, before spending the rest of the week training hard for this weekend’s games. We have to play well, with more passion, and find a way to have more fun on the ice, and once we do that I’m sure we’ll be alright.”

The Murrayfield men have been unlucky with injuries this season, often reduced to playing with only three fit defencemen, but Hartmann expects his full squad, including defencemen Martin Petrina (knee), and Danny McIntyre (broken finger), to be available.

He joked: “I don’t know what sort of a difference having everybody fit will make, because we haven’t had a full squad all year.

“It’s great to have a full line up, especially six defencemen, because they won’t be under so much pressure, this will help us, even more so towards the end of games where we’ve been having most of our problems.”

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Sheffield who last week strengthened their already impressive roster with the signing of American defenceman Nick Duff, currently sit in second place in the Elite League trailing Belfast Giants by five points, but they do have six games in hand over the Ulster side and are now many people’s favourite’s to retain the title.

Steelers’ player/coach Ryan Finnerty, who this week revealed his plans to retire from playing at the end of the season due to persistent back pain, will see his team’s games against seventh-placed Capitals as a chance to pick up points. Against a physical Steelers side, the boost in Edinburgh’s playing personnel may see a change of role for tough guy defenceman Jozef Sladok. Signed by club owner Scott Neil in the summer the 6ft 5in Slovakian is not afraid to stick up for his team-mates and has a reputation for dropping the gloves when required.

Hartmann admits that with so many players out injured he could ill afford to have Sladok or any other player spending too much time in the penalty box, but, with his team at full strength, Sladok will be expected to reinstate that physical edge to his play.

Hartmann said: “Jozef is a tough guy and any coach would be happy to have a guy like him on their team, and be able to let him fight and do his job.

We’ve been so short on players, sometimes we’ve been playing with only two defencemen, so he had no chance to fight, but right know with everybody back he will be able to do his job again.”