Edinburgh Capitals, regardless of tomorrow’s result at Dundee Stars, will cement a Challenge Cup quarter-final place with a win over Fife Flyers at Murrayfield on Sunday (face-off 6pm).
And in-form forward Jared Staal believes a “tight-knit group” is the main reason behind a great start to the season for the small-budget club, with four victories in their past four games.
The former Carolina Hurricanes winger has had a whirlwind start to his career in British ice hockey, scoring five goals and adding four assists in his opening six games. He tops the team’s scoring charts, and this week was voted player of the week by fans up and down the country in a social media poll.
The Canadian, who has played the majority of his career in the American Hockey League, icing in just shy of 250 games, seems to be settling in well to his new surroundings with wife Natalie after being snapped up by Edinburgh in a summer move.
“Me and my wife were looking to head over to Europe and start a new adventure and Edinburgh was one of the first teams to reach out,” said Staal. “We looked into the city and the league and heard a lot of good things and it was as simple as that.
“We’ve had a lot of fun since we’ve been here, the city is beautiful and everyone has been very welcoming, it’s been an easy transition for us.”
Staal – who in 2013 made NHL history when, along with brothers Eric and Jordan, iced for Carolina in the same game – arrived in the city with a reputation as a player with an excellent two-way game, and strength on the puck. Not necessarily his eye for goal.
Staal said: “It seems to be working out so far, but I know throughout the season you go through some ups and downs and right now I seem to be in the right spot at the right time and finding the back of the net. I’ve been fortunate so far, but I know it’s not going happen like this all season so when it does, I’m going to enjoy it.
“Even though we’ve been together a short period of time we’re a tight-knit group of players already and we have a lot of fun when we’re at the rink together, it’s easy to play for these guys and to battle hard for them. We’re having a blast and hopefully we can keep this ball rolling.”
Edinburgh’s early season good form has not gone unnoticed, with goalie Travis Fullerton, who currently holds a 94.3 save percentage, winning player-of-the-week honours last week ahead of Staal’s plaudits this week, as the Canadian continued: “Fully’ has been great, a huge part of the success early on for this team. He was player of the week last week and he could have got it again this week, he’s been by far our best player and someone we’ve leaned on heavily, he’s been really impressive.”
Edinburgh’s injury problems look to be clearing up ahead of tonight’s Dundee clash, player-coach Michal Dobron will ice and the club are hopeful of a return for Garrett Milan, although forwards Ian Schultz and Karel Hromas are set to be sidelined for at least another week.
“Dundee gave us three straight losses right at the start of the season (including two friendly defeats), they are a fast, skilled team, and turnovers are huge against them because with their speed the puck can end up in the back of your net very easily. How we manage the puck against them is very important.”
Staal, who scored the overtime winner in Fife last Saturday to give Edinburgh their first win in Kirkcaldy in almost three years continued: “I was surprised at how long it was since the last time we won in Fife so, especially for the guys who’ve been around longer, to get a win there was very special.
“It was neat to see our fans and how excited they were. It’s a long season and Fife are a good team, so I’m looking forward to a lot of good battles throughout the year, beginning on Sunday.”