Edinburgh Capitals, eliminated from play-off contention earlier this month, wrap up their Elite League season this weekend with the first of two games against Gardiner Conference champions Braehead Clan tomorrow in Glasgow before they battle it out again on Sunday at Murrayfield (face-off 6pm).
Wind the clock back 12 months and the same end-of-season fixture saw one of the best games seen at Murrayfield in recent years, with Edinburgh – against all the odds – trying to give long-time club servant David Beatson a winning send-off in his final game and Braehead needing a regulation win to clinch the Gardiner Conference title on the last day of the season.
Braehead won the game 6-3, but not before Edinburgh, who, following their well-documented troubles last season barely had a team to put on the ice, gave the Glasgow outfit an almighty scare. Feisty forward Garrett Milan, one of only four Capitals players who played in that game still at the club, remembers it fondly: “It was really cool actually,” he said. “Braehead were going for the conference title and the whole away side of the rink was jam packed and it was a brilliant atmosphere.
“We really wanted to be the spoilers. I think it was tied going into the third period and a couple of late mistakes cost us the game. It was real close right up until two minutes to go. You looked across at their bench and they were like ‘what the heck is going on here?’ We were throwing everything at them, and we had barely a roster to put together, never mind make a game of it with a team like Braehead.
“It will be tough to repeat that kind of intensity on Sunday because the same things just aren’t on the table. We don’t have a lifer like David Beatson playing his last game for the club, and obviously this year Braehead already have the conference wrapped up. We’re not going to quit, though. You saw that against Nottingham last week. We don’t like losing, especially to one of our Scottish rivals.”
Milan, a mid-season arrival last year, believes despite Edinburgh missing out on the play-offs for a fourth straight year and again occupying bottom spot in the table, there is a much more positive atmosphere at the club than when he arrived 14 months ago.
Milan said: “Last year, I came in late and I didn’t really know what I was getting in to. We went 0 and 13 in the time I was here and in terms of the games themselves we were only really ever in two or three of them.
“Whereas this year there was a big buzz about the team, as we had signed some players that potentially could do really well for us. Expectations were to not only make the play-offs, but to be play-off contenders. We’ve had spurts when we’ve looked like that sort of team. We’ve had so many close games, but too often we switch off for ten minutes and have two or three scored on us and that’s really cost us.
“The consistency just hasn’t been there. We started the season well, but we had a lot of injuries over the Christmas period and won something like one in nine games around that time. Up until about two weeks ago, we were still winning games regularly. It’s tough to pinpoint just exactly what went wrong.
“With the wins we’ve had this year, we’ve proven we can compete with any team in the league. We’ve never just been awful for sixty minutes but, like I say, we have these lulls in games and we’ve been punished for our mistakes.”