Richard Hartmann has only one New Year’s resolution for his Edinburgh Capitals team: make the end-of-season play-offs.
Caps were set to host old rivals Fife Flyers at Murrayfield in ‘Hogamanay Hockey’ later today and player-coach Hartmann said: “All our games against Fife are big games for the club, but with a such a large crowd coming into the building for this one, and with it being Hogmanay, there’s an element of prestige attached to this fixture. All of which just adds to the intensity.
“It’s going to be loud from both sets of supporters, and our fans have an important role to play. We really feed off them when they get behind us – it’s a real boost for the boys.”
Capitals, who had been riding the crest of a wave in dropping only three points in a stretch of 11 league games, have since lost four straight, slipping down to eighth in a tightly-contested lower half of the Elite League.
However, a regulation win against Flyers would see them move back up to sixth, ahead of both Fife and the team who beat Edinburgh home and away last weekend, Hull Stingrays.
“Our good form went a little bit to our heads,” said Hartmann. “We need to start from scratch again and work hard every night. That has to be our mentality for every shift and I think that’s been missing the last few games.
“We play well when everyone sticks to their job and helps out defensively, instead of worrying about scoring goals and their own statistics. That’s just selfish and we need to get away from that. Mentally, it’s such a fine line between winning and losing for us. We have a good team, but we need to get our heads right and play the game like we discussed.
“I had big expectations for us this year, and I want to see more. We had a very tough start with injuries and we’re in a better place now than we were two months ago, but we simply must make the play-offs this season. Whatever it takes.”
Edinburgh will be close to full strength with Riley Emmerson and Loren Barron returning from suspension, plus Daniel Naslund has recovered from illness. However, Jordan Steel, who suffered an upper body injury in Hull on Saturday night, remains a doubt. Hartmann continued: “Having those guys back is a big boost. When we have the chance to play with three full lines I fancy our chances against any team in the league, but when we have guys out with injuries, for bans or whatever, we struggle.
“I think the DOPS (Elite League’s Department of Player Safety) has been tough on us this year compared to some other teams, but it’s something we need to learn to deal with. We have a lot of young players and sticking together on the ice is important but as professionals we need to know what’s going on out there.”
Fife, who earlier this month ended a run of seven games without a win by beating Edinburgh 6-5 after penalty shots, have since gone on to win four of their last six games. They will, however, be without influential captain Kyle Haines and their free-scoring forward Chris Auger today.
“Every game we’ve had against Fife at Murrayfield has been tight,” said Hartmann. “Tonight, will be no different, but we need to return to how we were playing a few weeks ago. We went over the game plan hard last night and it’s important we stick to it.”