Defence improves and could be the key to play-off bid

Edinburgh Capitals first goal scored by Ian Schultz (behind Caprdiff  no 24.)
Edinburgh Capitals first goal scored by Ian Schultz (behind Caprdiff no 24.)
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Despite a battling performance from the home side, it didn’t take long for Murrayfield to return to being a happy hunting ground for Welsh sports, as Edinburgh Capitals were pipped 3-2 in overtime by Elite League leaders Cardiff Devils in the old Riverside rink last night.

Caps, playing their fourth game in six nights, and coupled with Saturday’s excellent 5-2 win at Manchester Storm, can be proud of their efforts according to bench coach Jock Hay, who said: “It was a really close game, we battled really hard all over the ice. I thought their goals in regular time were just a result of getting the bounce of the puck. We competed well with the league leaders and with a bit of luck could have won the game.”

Three of the game’s four goals scored in 60 minutes came in the opening period, and with goalies Travis Fullerton for Edinburgh and Ben Bowns for Cardiff standing tall, luck was a major factor in all three.

Cardiff took an early lead inside four minutes, a howler of an effort from David Brine which saw him break his stick. With the puck bobbling and bouncing towards goal, in what felt like slow motion, it took another strange bounce before reaching Fullerton, and Chris Jones, one of only three Welsh players on the Devils books, poked the puck over the line.

Caps equalised ten minutes later. Garrett Milan, breaking down the left side, looked to have put too much on his centring pass for Ian Schultz, but the puck was intercepted by a Devils stick, which only resulted in slowing it down right into Schultz’s path and the in-form forward made no mistake, slotting home his 17th league goal of the season.

Caps, showing no ill effects from their heavy playing schedule, had their tails up and Pavel Vorobyev showed great hustle to win a puck in the right hand corner behind the Devils goal. Nothing was on so he simply turned and whacked the puck across the crease, off the skate of a bemused looking Devils defenceman and beyond Bowns for 2-1 Edinburgh at 17 minutes and 58 seconds.

Devils enjoyed the majority of the play in the second period, however Edinburgh were playing dogged defence in front of Fullerton, Cardiff only out-shooting Edinburgh eight to six in the middle frame, testament to the defensive commitment of the Edinburgh players, who are currently battling for an end of season play-off spot.

Hay continued: “That was the difference this weekend, we’ve not given the opposition many chances, we’ve worked really hard on defence and keeping tabs on your guy in the zone instead of looking at the puck. We got away from it a couple of times but generally our defensive side of the game was way better than it has been.

“We were keeping them to the outside, we battled well on the boards and behind the net. We just weren’t for getting beaten there which limits their opportunities, and when they did get a chance Fully came in and made some good stops.

“It was much the same on Saturday, we played really well defensively there too, not just in our own zone, but making sure we didn’t turn the puck over at the far blue-line, leading to odd man rushes, which is our usual trait.”

Cardiff did eventually draw level late in the second period, former NHL enforcer Patrick Bordeleau deflecting a Birne effort beyond Fullerton in the 37th minute.

Defence remained on top in a nervy final period, Schultz with the best chance for Edinburgh with less than four minutes to play, but his shot on the turn just missed Bowns’ right hand post. At the other end Fullerton showed a lightning quick glove to deny a fierce Joey Martin drive as the clock ticked down.

Three-on-three overtime ensued, Joey Haddad scoring a hotly contested winner, which saw Edinburgh’s Taylor MacDougall thrown out of the game for verbal abuse of match referee Toby Craig.

Hay said: “It’s disappointing to lose the game like that, it was clear goalie interference, but these things happen. It could have been at the other end and we got the winner. I think with all the games we’ve had this week if you’d given us three out of four points this weekend we’d have bitten your hand off.”

Caps are now seven points behind Coventry Blaze, who occupy the final play-off spot. But they do have three games in hand over the West Midlands outfit.