Capitals coach sees improvement as first league points won

Edinburgh Capitals coach Dmitri Khristich was, as expected, 'extremely pleased' as his charges followed up Saturday's 7-2 Elite League win at Dundee Stars with a 2-1 victory over the same opposition at Murrayfield last night in the Challenge Cup.

Monday, 9th October 2017, 6:30 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 12:24 pm
Sergei Banashkov opens the scoring after finishing off a breakout move set up by Igor Valeyev and Pavel Vorobyev. Pic: Jan Orkisz/SMP

Already eliminated from the competition, the result sees Edinburgh finish group B with five points from six games, with Saturday’s two Elite League points surely the main focus of the weekend. However, Khristich put out a full strength team in both games.

He explained: “I didn’t really divide up the weekend like that. I just wanted us to play the best we could in both games. We’ve only played two games in the league, which will be our focus from now on, but it’s so early in the season. The main thing for us right now is getting better as a team and getting better results.

“We’re not at the level where we can rest players. Right now we are building as a team and we have to play together every night.

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“I’m extremely pleased with the two wins, they were both good performances. Sunday was a close game, Dundee pushed it to another level but we matched them, we showed good character.

“Sometimes luck was on our side but luck tends to follow the best team.”

The game, especially in the opening period, was played in a strange atmosphere, perhaps due to many of the fans in attendance following the goings on with the Scotland team in Ljubljana, the Capitals’ announcer providing regular score updates.

The lack of intensity could be explained from an Edinburgh point of view, however, Stars, who still had a very good chance of making the quarter-finals, started the game sluggishly, still reeling from Saturday’s 7-2 rout when Edinburgh’s Dylan Anderson, Sergei Banashkov, Marek Tvrdon, Julius Nyqvist, Pavel Vorobyev and Mike Cazzola (2) did the damage on Tayside.

Taylor Stefishen had Edinburgh’s first chance as he went close with a wrap-around on three minutes. Caps should have taken the lead midway through the opening period, but couldn’t beat Stars goalie Travis Fullerton with a 50 second two-man advantage after the visitors ran into penalty trouble.

Stars only really threatened Pavel Shegalo at the other end, when Igor Valeyev was called for tripping in the 18th minute.

Stars came out with more tenacity after the interval, forcing Shegalo into an early pad save, and just missed with a deflection in front of the net in the 27th minute, again on the power-play, Valeyev in the penalty box once more. Young Edinburgh winger Duncan Spiers, who Khristich appears to be converting into a defenceman, stopped a certain Stars goal with a timely check outside the crease, with the net gaping after an initial Shegalo save.

Edinburgh were creating chances of their own however, and the momentum turned once more on the half-hour after Dundee blue-liner Emerson Hrynyic needlessly hauled down Juris Upitis at centre ice, falling foul of match referee Toby Craig.

Edinburgh couldn’t score on the resulting power-play but did take the lead in the 35th minute, with Banashkov finishing off a lovely breakout move set up by Valeyev and Vorobyev.

Caps started the third period with their tails-up, Vorobyev forcing a top stop from Fullerton when clean through on the former Edinburgh goalie. Caps crucially made it 2-0 in the 46th minute. A great hustle from Tvrdon forced a Dundee turnover, and Dylan Anderson converted a nice Cazzola feed.

Dundee forced themselves back into the game two minutes later as Gabriel Levesque smashed a one-timer into the net after a lovely no-look cross-ice pass from Riley Stadel.

Shegalo produced his best save of the match with seven minutes remaining, sliding from post to post and getting a toe to a goalbound effort. The visitors pulled Fullerton for an extra skater with 90 seconds left, but couldn’t produce a goalscoring chance despite a late Banashkov penalty for checking-from-behind.