Capitals to give fringe players a chance

Richard Hartmann (centre) knows that Sheffield will provide a stiff test
Richard Hartmann (centre) knows that Sheffield will provide a stiff test
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Ahead of tomorrow’s home match with Sheffield Steelers, Edinburgh Capitals’ player-coach Richard Hartmann has promised his fringe players the chance to stake a claim for a more permanent role in next year’s squad.

Last time out, in an 8-3 loss at Fife Flyers, Hartmann rolled four lines, giving regular ice time to Marc Fowley, Jay King and Sean Beattie, and he said: “We’re looking forward to next season and now is the time to give those guys some experience so we can build towards something next year.

“Giving them this chance now will make it easier for them to jump in next year and create extra competition for places amongst our other players.”

King and Beattie both picked up an assist in the only bright spot on what was a disappointing night for the Murrayfield men and Hartmann continued: “The whole line played well. They made a couple of mistakes, but everybody else did that and worse.”

In the club’s penultimate home game of the season, Hartmann expects a tough time against second placed Steelers, set to be played in front of a bumper crowd thanks to discounted tickets.

He said: “For me, personally, it’s a big challenge. Sheffield is one of the top teams in the league and they’re trying to secure second place, so they’ll be coming here to win the match. The guys need to play for the fans and put in the maximum effort.”

Meanwhile, with the pro team set to complete their weekend fixtures with a trip to Cardiff Devils on Sunday, the stage is set at Murrayfield for Caps’ Scottish National League side to attempt to clinch their first title since 2001 with a win by at least three goals against Kilmarnock Storm (face-off 6pm).

Edinburgh have been chasing down leaders Kirkcaldy Kestrels, who have completed their fixtures, and a victory will see them draw level on points with a chance to win the league on goal difference.

Capitals’ SNL captain Chris Blackburn explained: “There’s a real buzz in the changing room at the moment. With three games remaining, we had to make up 22 goals to win the league and for us to be plus-19 over the last two matches is incredible. It’s given us a real chance going into Sunday.

“Obviously we’ve still got it all to do, but we have a chance and we’re all very excited.”

Blackburn, who represented Scotland at U-16 and U-19 level, before taking a break from the sport, returned to the SNL squad last season and believes Capitals’ National League resurgence can only benefit hockey in Edinburgh at all levels: “When I first came back there were times where we were struggling with numbers, but now a lot of guys have come back to the squad and there is a much more positive outlook on the SNL as a league.”

“[Club-owner] Scott Neil is doing a good job of bridging the gap between the Elite League and the SNL team and making us all into one big family. That needs to happen.

“Having that unity between the two teams will help the junior guys, who will see at their own rink the chance to progress through the juniors to the SNL team – and ultimately, if they work hard enough, the Elite League team.”