It may be 16 straight defeats for Edinburgh Capitals, but they were loudly cheered off the ice by their loyal fan base after a 6-5 loss to Coventry Blaze at Murrayfield last night in a match that almost saw Edinburgh’s Garett Milan tie things up right at the death, were it not for a diving goal line clearance by a Blaze defenceman.
In a year which has seen pretty much anything that can go wrong for a hockey club materialise, an already short benched Capitals iced without Callum Boyd for personal reasons, and experienced Canadian winger Ned Lukacevic, who will not play again this season after his work visa expired. Due to a league rule change implemented this season, Edinburgh were unable to complete the formality of applying for a new one, despite Lukacevic still being under contract with the club.
After a horror show in the West Midlands on Saturday, Edinburgh lost 12-4 to Coventry in the first half of their weekend double header, a performance Caps player-coach Riley Emmerson admitted left them “embarrassed”, he was delighted with how his team responded just 24 hours later.
Emmerson said: “Saturday we really weren’t very good. We were not ready mentally and that’s my fault because I tried to take a different approach with the guys before the game. That performance is on my shoulders.
“It’s a big blow to lose Ned like this, but the guys competed last night. It’s really difficult to play hard for 60 minutes with just 11 skaters. We were embarrassed in their barn but the guys really stepped up last night and showed how much they cared. It was just a shame we couldn’t tie it up right at the end.”
It looked like a repeat of Saturday’s huge win from a red-hot Blaze was on the cards as they raced to a 2-0 lead within eight minutes through Carl Lauzon and Brett Robinson, but just two minutes later Edinburgh had equalised, scoring a brace of their own through Milan and Sean Beattie.
In a high scoring first period, Lauzon completed a hat-trick in just 15 minutes, and Chris Bruton made it 5-2 for the visitors before Edinburgh’s player-of-the-year elect, Trevor Gerling, scored on the power-play in the 19th minute to cut to deficit back to two.
Thomas Stuart-Dant, with his first Murrayfield marker for the Caps, looked to have scored the only goal of the second period, but Blaze restored their two-goal advantage with Bruton on target again in the 40th minute to make it 6-4 going into the last 20 minutes.
Edinburgh got their noses back into the game within a minute of the restart, Gerling with a straightforward finish after Blaze goalie Brian Stewart spilled an initial Beatie effort. An exhausted Caps still looked dangerous on the break, especially through Gerling and Milan but a superior Blaze controlled the majority of the game, and could have pulled away were it not for the likes of Kyle Flemington and Brandon Thompson throwing their bodies fearlessly in the way of some ferocious blue-line slap-shots.
Watching the match from the stands was a frustrated Lukacevic, who played his last game of the season for the club 24 hours earlier in Coventry.
Lukacevic said: “The guys battled hard and I wish I could have been on the ice to help them out. I’m extremely proud to be their team-mate.
“The whole visa situation was out of my control, it was just a new rule put in this year, and the club didn’t know about it. It was an honest mistake but it still sucks; what can you do?
“I’m not sure what next season holds. Obviously it’s been a tough year for both myself and the club, but hockey is a crazy world, hopefully something comes in that I’m happy with.”