Ice Hockey: Thumping by Steelers fails to dampen spirits

Edinburgh CAPITALS’ player/coach Richard Hartmann refused to criticise the performance of his ice hockey players despite going down 7-0 to the Sheffield Steelers in Yorkshire last night, a 13th straight defeat for the Murrayfield men.

The experienced Slovakian maintained the inflated scoreline was not a fair reflection of the game, and that his side were still confident of a top-eight finish, despite their lead over ninth-placed Dundee Stars being cut to two points.

Hartmann said: “We played pretty well, yes, we made a couple of mistakes, but we did not play nearly as badly as the score suggests. Sheffield played hard, and we tried to keep up, we played right until the end and if it wasn’t for their goalie making a couple of lucky saves, the result would have been closer.”

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The defeat could well have cost more to the Edinburgh side than just two league points after injuries to defensive duo Tomas Valecko and Martin Petrina forced them to leave the game early, and both face a race against time to be fit for when the Capitals return to action on Saturday, away to the Coventry Blaze, before returning to face Dundee Stars at home on Sunday.

Hartmann revealed: “Valecko took a shot to his hand. He’ll need to get that X-rayed, and we’ll see where he is after that. Petrina took a hit and I think he may be out for the weekend.”

Sheffield rested their star American net-minder John DeCaro, instead giving the start to back-up goalie Geoff Woolhouse, who made 28 saves on the night, picking up the man of the match award and his third shutout of the season, in only his seventh game.

The home side peppered 40 shots on Nathan Craze in the Capitals’ nets, and opened the scoring in the 12th minute through Colt King. Steelers’ player/coach Ryan Finnerty doubled their advantage a minute later.

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Sheffield had already made it 3-0 through defenceman Chad Huttel before Edinburgh lost Valecko and Petrina to injury and, with only 16 seconds of the second period remaining, Mike Ramsay put the result beyond doubt with Steelers’ fourth goal at 39 minutes 46 seconds.

Third period strikes from Steve Birnstill, Finnerty and Jeff Legue ensured Steelers remain second in the table, and seven points behind Belfast Giants in the title race.

Edinburgh hold on to eighth place on 26 points, four behind Hull Stingrays, and two ahead of Dundee Stars who continued their recent good form with a 6-5 penalty-shot victory over Braehead Clan in Tayside last night.

Hartmann refuses to be concerned about Dundee’s late play-off charge and is adamant the plan is to chase down Hull over whom Edinburgh hold three games in hand.

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He said: “We’re not focusing on what’s behind us, we’re focused on what’s in front of us. We want to catch Hull, that’s our goal for the season. We’ll give our all to make the play-offs and see where we are at the end of our 54 league games.”

Capitals had showed something of a return to form on Saturday night, picking up a valuable league point at Murrayfield after drawing 4-4 in regulation time with Braehead Clan, before losing on penalty shots.

Sean Menton won man of the match honours for the home side, scoring twice and setting up a third, and the young American is looking for more of the same for the end of the season run-in.

He said: “On Saturday we came together as a team and proved we can compete at a high level. We’ve got to approach next weekend’s games with a clear head.

“Desperation hockey can be great to watch, and we’re fighting for our play-off spot, as a team we realise the goal at hand.”