Ice hockey: Edinburgh Capitals braced for opener

Jan Safar and Michal Benadik mark Breken Inns' Caps' sponsorship. Picture: LESLEY MARTIN
Jan Safar and Michal Benadik mark Breken Inns' Caps' sponsorship. Picture: LESLEY MARTIN
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EDINBURGH CAPITALS face a tall order against Belfast Giants, when the new Elite League ice hockey season gets under way tomorrow night, according to forward Curtis Leinweber.

The Canadian forward admits such a tough match against last year’s league-runners-up may have come a little early for the Murrayfield outfit, but would love to cause an opening night upset and give the Giants a little “pay-back” after the big budget Ulster team knocked them out of last season’s play-offs.

Leinweber said: “They’ll be a very good team again; unfortunately we lost out to them in the play-offs last season, so I suppose you could look at it as an opportunity for some pay-back. However, at this early stage we’re not overly concerned with who we’re playing against, but more so how we’re playing ourselves. We’ve had a poor pre-season, with a couple of bad defeats, but we’ve learnt a lot from them.”

Edinburgh will be without one of their big summer signings for the clash, which takes place in Belfast’s Odyssey Arena, with Canadian forward Les Reaney still waiting on a visa, but the clubs two new Czech recruits, Tomas Horna and Martin Lucka are set to make their debut.

Leinweber said of his new team-mates: “I don’t want to put any extra pressure on the new guys that have just come in, but they’re experienced players who have played professionally for a number of years. You can expect that they’re going to give everything they have for us, just like they will have done for their past clubs.

“At the moment we’re kind of putting the jigsaw pieces in place and seeing who plays well together.”

Capitals co-owner Scott Neill is looking forward to welcoming fans back to Murrayfield on Sunday night when they take on oldest rivals Fife Flyers in a Challenge Cup match (face off 6pm) and believes player-coach Richard Hartmann has put together a competitive squad, but admits the players may need some time to gel.

He said: “We will have a competitive team on the ice again this season; it may take a little time to get into the swing of things, but that’s quite normal for us. We simply can’t afford, unlike some of the bigger budget clubs, to have such depth and quality throughout the squad that we’re ready to go at it full tilt from the first game of the season. But in Richard Hartmann we have a coach with such good coaching ability that he will make us a better team as the season goes on.

“We had a good season last year, okay it took us till December to really get going, but I believe that on paper our squad is stronger than it was at this time last year.”

Coach Hartmann was happy to discuss the season ahead, but not before he was given an opportunity to say sorry to fans after Caps’ lost 13-4 in a friendly match against Dundee Stars earlier this week.

He said: “I really want to say something about that game because the fans deserve an apology, even if it was just an exhibition match. We worked hard, but did not use our heads and played like individuals instead of a team. It was as if the systems we all worked so hard on last year had been ripped up and put in the bin.

“I just hope the fans will keep supporting us, because we will all be working really hard to get back to the type of hockey we were playing last year.

I don’t want to start the year on a downbeat note, I’m optimistic about what we can achieve. We have a good squad who once they start to play like a team and believe in one another will be fine.”