Despite a much-improved performance on recent weeks, Edinburgh Capitals lost 3-1 to Belfast Giants at Murrayfield last night in what was young defenceman James Wallace’s last game in a Caps jersey for the foreseeable future as he leaves the club to help run the family business.
Edinburgh led until seven-and-a-half minutes from time before three quick Giants goals turned the tide and condemned Capitals to their fifth straight defeat.
Caps player-coach Riley Emmerson praised the performance but was left disappointed after the wrong players were sent to the ice following a misunderstanding of a call made late in the game by match referee Neil Wilson – seconds before experienced Giants forward James Desmarais put the visitors 2-1 ahead, scoring on a breakaway with just over three minutes remaining.
Giants forward Adam Keefe appeared to punch Edinburgh’s David Rutherford in the face, Wilson called a penalty which Edinburgh assumed would be a two-minute power-play for roughing, but was in fact a misconduct penalty. This is a call which sends the player to the penalty box for ten minutes, However, he can be replaced and the penalised team does not have to play short-handed.
Chris Higgins then wrapped up the points for the visitors only a minute later after a strange bounce off the boards behind the Capitals net was not dealt with properly by both goalie Carsen Chubak and blue-liner Kyle Bigos.
Emmerson said: “We can take positives away from that performance. It was just really disappointing the way the game turned out.
“We thought we had a power-play but was a misconduct penalty and we couldn’t get the right guys out on the ice.
“We had [Kyle] Flemington in front of the net – we had guys playing in different spots they broke down the ice and scored and we couldn’t recover from that.”
Recent Edinburgh signing Ned Lukacevic scored a first-period power-play goal for the hosts, diverting an initial slap-shot from Ryan Hayes past Stephen Murphy in the 15th minute.
Giants enjoyed the majority of possession throughout but, with Edinburgh looking dangerous on the break, both Murphy and Chubak faced 21 shots each through the first two periods.
There was an injury to Belfast and former Capitals forward Mark Garside in the 23rd minute, the GB internationalist getting warm applause from both sets of fans as he left the ice assisted by team-mates.
Edinburgh, who in their last four games had conceded 25 goals, looked much better defensively, perhaps riding their luck at times. However, it was luck earned through hard work as players battled hard to be in the right position at the right time, which bodes well for when Edinburgh are next in action away to Fife Flyers on Boxing Day.
The Giants eventually broke Edinburgh’s dogged resistance in the final period, Brandon Benedict scoring from close range at 52 minutes and 26 seconds.
Emmerson added: “We took pride in the little things. We definitely competed and showed we are a good team. It’s just the result that was disappointing. We’ll use the couple of extra days off in the run-up to Christmas to reset, just get away from the rink and take a break from hockey.”
Emmerson was full of praise for 20-year old Wallace, who played a fine final game of the season for the club.
“I’d like to thank him so much,” said Emmerson.
“He was a great addition to the squad and a great team-mate. He was a guy who just soaked everything in. I hope he gets the opportunity to come back to hockey because he could be a really good player.
Wallace said of his two years in Edinburgh, after signing from Solway Sharks: “It’s been great, I’ve learned so much and as a young British player that’s the most important thing.
“I need some time away from the game, my dad took not well and I’m running the family business.
“Maybe when things settle down I can come back in the future.”