Ice hockey fans from across the country will descend on Murrayfield ice rink tomorrow as Edinburgh Capitals drop the puck on the new season, playing host to the inaugural Elite League Scottish Cup.
All four Scottish Elite League teams are taking part in the brand new weekend-long tourney, with Fife Flyers and Dundee Stars playing in the first semi-final tomorrow at 2pm, with Capitals taking on Braehead Clan in the evening game at 5.30pm.
For new Capitals head coach Dmitri Khristich, it will be his first competitive game behind the bench. The Ukrainian former NHL All-Star is expecting an exciting weekend.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said: “There’s a lot going on the city, with the football match on next door. The weekend should see two good games for all four teams and I hope everyone enjoys it.”
Khristich, who has now had three pre-season matches to run the rule over his squad, is looking to see more of the same fighting spirit that saw Edinburgh split their home-and-away series with Dundee, and lose out to a last-second goal against Canadian college team University of Manitoba Bisons.
Khristich said: “All three of our games have been close – against evenly-matched opponents. We lost a game in the last second, we won in a penalty shoot-out, and we tied a game in the last second but the goal didn’t count (in a 3-2 loss at Dundee on Wednesday). Already we’ve encountered lots of different scenarios that we will see throughout the season.
“It’s pleasing to see that when we went down in games we didn’t quit and managed to fight back, but we’ve given up goals through some sloppy plays.
“I’ll be watching our last game back on video, but I’ve noticed mistakes made by our defencemen, not on the defensive side, but when we had possession of the puck, not giving it to our forwards or getting it over the blue line.”
All four teams return to action on Sunday, with the losing semi-finalists able to give their fringe players plenty of ice time in a match to decide third and fourth place before the final itself.
Capitals assistant coach Jock Hay, who starred for Murrayfield Racers in similar weekend tournaments back in the 1980s and 90s is expecting a great atmosphere over the two days.
Hay said: “It’s a good format. You’ve got all four teams in the one building, a big crowd, with lots of banter between everyone.
“I think it’s a great way to kick off the season. All four teams are still finding their way a little bit, so the two games for everyone helps on that front, and we’re immediately playing games that mean something.”
Hay continued: “We’ve had one or two new guys coming in each game, which upsets the continuity a bit. We’re still getting used to one another, but the signs are there that we’re going to be a good team, it’s just a matter of getting results.”
Edinburgh will be minus last season’s top points scorer Pavel Vorobyev, who has seen his work visa delayed. However, Russian summer signing Alexander Islamov is set to make his debut against Braehead.
Caps forward Callum Boyd, who has returned for a second spell with the club after spending last season with Braehead, reckons home advantage gives Edinburgh a great chance of being the first Scottish club to win an officially recognised Elite League cup competition.
Boyd said: I’m excited. It’s going to be great to kick things off in our barn, and play against my old team.
“The weekend will be a big test for us, but we’re playing for a trophy and what better way to start the season by keeping it here at Murrayfield?”
Meanwhile, Canadian blue-liner Michael D’Orazio, now in his second season as a Cap, reckons Edinburgh’s 14 new summer signings will be in for a shock as they sample their first competitive game.
D’Orazio said: “The guys are excited to be playing this at home. It will be a culture shock for some of them, but in a good way. It’s nice that our fans are rewarded by having this here. They come out and support us every week and it’s been like that since I’ve been here. Hopefully, it’s nice and loud again this weekend.”
• Day tickets for both days are available to buy on the door but fans are unable to buy tickets for individual games.