Edinburgh Capitals co-owner Scott Neil has laid down the gauntlet to his players ahead of today’s “must-win” showpiece Hogmanay Hockey fixture with fierce rivals Fife Flyers at Murrayfield (face-off 4pm).
Edinburgh surely cannot wait to see the back of 2015, as after an encouraging start to the season which included a record-breaking run of eight straight home wins, a horrendous December has seen the club clock up seven defeats on the spin, and falling from fourth in the table to chasing the pack for a play-off place.
Neil said: “We’ve got to respond. It’s pretty much a must-win game for us to start getting us back on track. The frustrating thing is the guys have proved already this season that they can play to a high level. At one time we had close to the best home record in the league. We’ve hit December and we’ve gone from fourth to nearly last in the space of seven games.”
Looking back on the losing run, which began with a 2-1 loss to Braehead Clan and includes last weekend’s 3-0 reverse to Fife in Kirkcaldy and a heavy 6-2 home defeat to Dundee Stars, former GB internationalist Neil continued: “We had a similar lull right at the start of the season and the same problems have resurfaced.
“We need to play a sensible, disciplined game and not give the other teams opportunities to kick on, which is exactly what we did on Sunday night against Dundee. We took a 1-0 lead and then gifted Stars an easy goal and they took over from there.
“At this level, the game is all about not giving your opposition easy chances. we need to be tight at the back and make other teams work hard for what they get.”
Speaking immediately after Sunday’s defeat, Edinburgh player-coach Riley Emmerson spoke of releasing players and bringing in new faces unless results and level of performance improve.
On that subject, Neil said: “Riley and I have had some chats and we realise we can’t afford to fall behind any further. We must find a way to start winning games and soon – otherwise that is something we’ll have to look at.
“It’s not as if we’ve signed bad players. From a club point of view we’ve invested heavily in the team this year and it’s very disappointing to find ourselves in the bottom two again. At one time we looked liked we would make a play-off spot comfortably, but other teams have thrown the gauntlet down.We’ve got to rise to the challenge and quickly.
“It’s not always about winning games, it’s about providing a level of hockey and entertainment that this team can and should be able to provide.
“Earlier in the season, even when we lost games people would be walking out the rink thinking that they had seen a good game of hockey. We seem to have lost that over the last few weeks and everyone at the club is doing all we can to get that feeling back.”
A big crowd is expected at Murrayfield today to witness the puck-drop on the last Elite League fixture of 2015, and Neil continued: “The New Year brings us a lot of games against teams that are around us in the league. We still have to play Coventry three times and we have three home games against Manchester. These will all be season defining games for us. Fife also fall into that bracket, as if games against our biggest rivals weren’t big enough all ready. These are games at home we need to win if we want to get back into the play-off places.”