Assistant coach Jock Hay believes Edinburgh Capitals head into tonight’s Forth derby with Fife Flyers in Kirkcaldy showing signs of improvement.
Hay and player-coach Michael D’Orazio have taken charge following the release last week of head coach Dmitri Khristich.
Edinburgh certainly played with greater intensity for the pair’s first game in charge in Saturday’s 6-3 home loss to Belfast Giants, where Mike Cazzola (2) and Pavel Vorobyev were on target.
Caps built a 2-0 lead over the Elite League’s second-placed team before conceding four goals in a six-minute spell as the visitors sealed victory with less than two minutes to play through an empty-net-goal from former Capitals forward David Rutherford.
Experienced Hay, who was Khristich’s assistant and has had various coaching roles with ice hockey teams in Edinburgh for nearly 30 years, said: “My own role hasn’t changed too much (following the departure of Khristich). Dmitri took a lot on himself, now the load is spread between Mike and me. I’ll be taking more practices and it’s a question of me being more vocal on the bench as well.”
“In Fife, if we can keep up the effort for 60 minutes, we’ll put in good show. You were never going to see us come on leaps and bounds overnight. It’s a slower process, but I think we saw an improvement in the Belfast game.
“We worked hard, but lost our way in the second period when we we’re perhaps a little tired and lost our shape. We lost a couple of goals there and that cost us in the end.
“We went 2-0 up but lost a bit of experience on the bench with injuries to Plewsy (Tyler Plews) and Boydy (Callum Boyd). That hurt us on defence and made it harder for us to roll three lines.
“When you’re tired, that’s when you make mistakes or take penalties. We need to instil in the guys that even when tired they must maintain discipline in their play, and keep their shape, to make it as hard as possible for the opposition.”
Hay and D’Orazio clearly believe a higher-intensity game is the way forward for this team, who won only three from 24 Elite League games under Khristich. However, fatigue could play a factor as tonight’s match at Fife is followed by a tussle with Braehead Clan at Murrayfield tomorrow (face-off 7.30pm) in a run of five games in just eight days.
Hay continued: “We’re hopeful Callum will play, he came back for the third period against Belfast, Dillon Lawrence should be playing too after coming back from injury, and after tonight we’ll have (Sergei) Banashkov back from suspension.”
Tonight’s opponents Fife lead the way in what has been a disappointing season to date for the four Scottish teams in the 12-strong British Elite League, and are currently the only side north of the Border to hold a top-eight place and an end-of-season play-off spot. On paper, Edinburgh have been no match for Fife so far this season, losing all four games by a combined score of 23 goals to seven.
Hay continued: “We’ve actually played better than that against Fife this season. It’s a bit like the Belfast game where we’ve played pretty well but a poor 10 minutes where we switch off has really cost us and we go on to lose by a few goals.
“These derby games are very important to us and what I’ll say to the boys beforehand couldn’t be reported. We’ll stress how crucial it is for us to put up a good showing and a 60-minute effort and if we come away with the win that would just be brilliant for everybody at the club.”