Injuries and a flu-bug took their toll on Edinburgh Capitals tonight, losing 7-1 to visiting Sheffield Steelers.
They were ahead 1-0 after the first period but, missing six first-team regulars, and only 24 hours after pushing Braehead Clan all the way in a 4-3 loss in Glasgow on Saturday, their problems submerged them.
Caps may have been well beaten, however there was no lack of fight on display, something that was lacking earlier this season, and Capitals’ man-of-the-match Mike Cazzola believes results will improve if the club can return to anything like full strength, especially now the impressive Tyler Beskorowany is between the pipes.
Cazzola said: “We had two and a half lines that we were trying to roll, our coaches knew we were short of men, couple of guys sick, couple more injured. I thought we managed it in the first period and then in the second period they got a couple of good bounces and we were chasing the whole night.”
The depth of a slick Sheffield outfit, who were also short benched through injury and suspension, shone through. English forward Cole Shudra, who is only 19, notched a hat-trick and he was ably backed up by 17-year-old line mate Liam Kirk, who is eligible for this year’s NHL draft and was watched by a scout from the Washington Capitals.
Despite being out-shot 20 to five in the opening period Capitals, of the Edinburgh variety, took the lead just three minutes in. Cazzola orchestrated a break up the ice, slipping a through pass to Pavel Vorobyev who stick-handled the puck beyond Steelers’ goalie Ervins Mustukovs. Tyler Plews stung the glove hand of the Latvian internationalist soon after with a fierce effort, but that was as close as Caps came to doubling their advantage.
Even with the home side working their socks off defensively, shots rained down on Edinburgh net-minder Beskorowany, Steelers averaging more than a shot on target a minute through the first two periods.
Cazzola continued: “Besko played unbelievable, I don’t even want to know how many shots he faced. Our team (despite the full-time score) did a good job staying motivated and staying together. It’s frustrating when you’re short of guys, and players are put out in situations they’re not always used to, but I thought our young guys played well when they got on the ice.
“We just need to get some guys back and we can turn the tide. If you look at our last couple of games we’ve dictated the play a bit, the scores have been a lot closer, and there’s been some games that we’ve lost where I felt we were the better team.
“It’s always nice when you’re playing competitive hockey, when you’re in games and pushing other teams.
“Right now we just need to play with what we have, play for each other, and play for the fans. I know they’re frustrated but we’re frustrated too. Once we get some bodies back, hopefully we’ll respond accordingly.”
Sheffield finally started converting their dominance into goals in the second period as Shudra tied the game with a low finish in the 26th minute. Patrik Moisio had a great chance to put the home side back in front after being fed all alone in front of Mustukovs, however his shot was gloved comfortably.
Two Steelers goals just after the half-hour, and only 90 seconds apart, really put them in control on the scoreboard as well as on the ice, Eric Nieley outmuscled the Caps defence to poke home a backhand finish, before a looping shot from the point was batted high out of the air and in by Mathieu Roy. Caps protested that Roy’s stick was high, but the goal stood.
Sheffield continued to push and Shudra was rewarded for being in the right place at the right time. In truth he knew little about his second goal as Kirk’s shot deflected off him and beyond a stricken Beskorowany at 38 minutes and 45 seconds.
Sheffield eased off in the third, against an out-of-puff Edinburgh, but despite not dominating in the same vein increased their lead through a double from Matt Marquardt and Shudra who completed his hat-trick with less than a minute to play.