Ice Hockey: Capitals play-off bid suffers setback

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EDINBURGH CAPITALS forward Bari McKenzie admitted he was so embarrassed by Sunday’s performance in his team’s 8-0 capitulation to Elite League leaders Belfast Giants that he says they don’t deserve to reach the play-offs.

With Dundee Stars beating Braehead Clan 3-0 elsewhere last night, the Caps have the tallest of orders in the next fortnight to try and wrestle eighth place off the resurgent Stars.

Certainly losing to what surely must be the next Elite League champions is nothing to be ashamed of, but with two road trips to Cardiff then Coventry to come this week, even the most optimistic fan won’t be too enthusiastic.

McKenzie didn’t hold back with his analysis, as the Caps now languish two points behind Dundee in ninth spot. “I didn’t expect to lose like that and it seemed like we gave up after a few goals,” he said. “To be honest, it’s embarrassing and it’s unacceptable for a team still chasing a play-off place and it becomes an uphill battle for us from now on.

“Our schedule is tough, starting with away trips to Cardiff and Coventry this week. However we shouldn’t be concentrating on Dundee, but looking at Hull, but without being disrespectful to anyone on this performance, we just don’t deserve to be in the play-offs.”

While McKenzie was honest enough to reflect on the performances and their chances Caps player-coach Richard Hartmann still retains some level of optimism, but was disappointed with the night’s work. He said: “Dundee winning is not the end for us. We’ve been battling all season and we’ll keep on doing that. We got ourselves into the top eight by winning games and points and I’m optimistic we can still do that and reach the play-offs.”

Aaron Clarke’s opener set the tone when his first-time shot beat Caps goaltender Nathan Craze at his back post, connecting with Jeff Mason’s diagonal pass. McKenzie, named the Caps man of the match afterwards, was chopped by Mason as he was about to burst through on Stephen Murphy, the Giants keeper. A penalty shot was awarded but McKenzie failed to beat Murphy from his open chance.

Mason blasted the Giants’ second, leaving Craze helpless, and then Clarke added his second to increase the lead to three. Jeremy Rebek added the fourth before the second interval.

Craig Peacock notched two early goals early in the third before Craze was pulled for Craig Holland for the final 12 minutes. However the “Sheepdog” wasn’t immune to Belfast’s scoring prowess either.

Adam Keefe added a seventh, finishing Mason’s square pass before Mason then sliced past him for the visitors’ eighth goal.

One man enjoying his return to Edinburgh, where he played for the Caps for three years, was former player-coach Doug Christiansen, in charge at Belfast, and he was delighted to leave Scotland with an excellent away record.

He said: “The points aside, I was most pleased to finish the season with a 24-1-2 record on the road and it was something I wanted to do, in creating a mentality on the road to win hockey games and to do that is phenomenal. But it’s always nice to be back in Edinburgh and, because of my time at the Caps, I have a soft spot for them and I hope they can reach the play-offs because I know what it would mean to Scott Neil and the organisation.”

Last night’s victory completed a four-point weekend over the Caps after they won 6-3 on Saturday at Murrayfield. It was a decent home performance and the Giants were on the backfoot in spells. However the goals from Hartmann, McKenzie and Jan Safar turned out to be the high points of the whole weekend for Capitals.