Capitals star Fullerton makes key saves to build victory platform

The Capitals apply pressure. Garret Milan (no 65) and Karel Hromas (in foreground) do their best to beat the Manchester defence. Picture: Jan Orkisz/SMP
The Capitals apply pressure. Garret Milan (no 65) and Karel Hromas (in foreground) do their best to beat the Manchester defence. Picture: Jan Orkisz/SMP
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Edinburgh Capitals picked up an important 2-1 Elite League win over Manchester Storm at Murrayfield last night, with goalie and man-of-the-match Travis Fullerton hailing an improved performance on the power-play and penalty kill as key to their success.

Fullerton made 30 saves as Edinburgh dominated the early exchanges scoring two second-period goals through Mason Wilgosh and Michael D’Orazio, only to hold on in the third period as Manchester, who were playing their third game in as many nights, and had goalie Mike Clemente to thank to keep the score down at the other end early on, battled back in the 
latter stages.

Fullerton said: “We didn’t want them to come in here and have an easy game, we made them work hard and we finished our checks.

“I thought we got off to a great start, Clemente made some huge saves. We should have been up 3-0 after the first but the puck just wasn’t wanting to go in for us, and we were forced to play a tight game.

“We made some huge penalty kills and scored a big power-play goal in the second to give us a lead and we were able to hang on in the third.”

Edinburgh looked the better side in a goalless opening period. Caps may have only edged the shot count ten to eight, but it was the efforts wide of the mark that could have come back to bite the Caps in an entertaining free-flowing 20 minutes.

Garrett Milan, Wilgosh and Pavel Vorobyev all flashed early efforts wide from great positions as Caps, with some great set-up play, in particular from Ian Schultz and Jared Staal, looked very dangerous.

Storm could have done more with their early chances as Edinburgh’s defence occasionally over committed, but Fullerton looked comfortable.

Nothing much looked on when Wilgosh received a pass at the top of the circle from Matt Tipoff in the 24th minute, but he showed quick hands to fire a fierce wrist-shot over the shoulder of Clemente to open the scoring.

Soon after taking the lead Edinburgh ran into penalty trouble, handing Manchester two five-on-three power-play opportunities. Caps did not look like a team with the worst penalty kill statistics in the league, however, and some great saves from Fullerton and committed shot blocking from the players in front of him kept Manchester at bay, bringing the home fans to their feet.

“Looking back, that was pretty big for us,” agreed Fullerton. “If they score they tie the game. Our three guys on the ice battled really hard. Five-on-threes are not easy to kill and we did a great job there.

“We’ve been trying to fix the problems we’ve had earlier in the season with our penalty kill and I think over the last four or five games, win or lose, we’ve been exceptional.

“Hopefully we can keep improving our special teams, they’re so important and they decide a lot of games.”

Manchester, despite failing to take advantage of their power-plays, were still looking dangerous and great work from the tenacious Milan won Edinburgh two penalties as Storm’s Italian internationalist Trevor Johnston, and former Edinburgh man Taylor Dickin, were called for separate infractions on the player just seconds apart in the 37th minute.

Caps took only 13 seconds to ram home their two-man advantage, a bullet of a slap-shot from D’Orazio beating Clemete all ends-up.

As the game moved into the third period it became a much scrappier affair, and nervy too for the home fans, after Matt Bissonnette threw the visitors a lifeline with still 17 minutes to play, firing home a one-timer from a great Dallas Ehrhardt cross-ice pass.

Caps are next in action on Saturday at Coventry Blaze, who occupy the eighth and final play-off spot, six points ahead of Edinburgh, with the Murrayfield men holding four games in hand.

Fullerton said: “We have 20 or so games left, we need to start reeling off some wins.

“Coventry are the team we’re chasing, so it’s a big game for us. We had a good road win at Braehead last week so we need to go down there with the same mentality and keep things simple. A win would be a huge two points for us.”