Ice Hockey: Stand-in netminder Holland is hero in Caps victory

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Edinburgh CAPITALS’ back-up netminder, Craig Holland, nicknamed “Sheepdog”, turned in a man-of-the-match performance as the Caps recorded a 4-3 sudden death penalty shot victory over Hull Stingrays at Murrayfield last night.

Holland’s save from a Dominic Osman penalty shot set the scene for the impressive Michal Dobron to slot home the winner, ensuring Edinburgh split their weekend series with the Stingrays in ice hockey’s Elite League.

The 19-year-old, who admitted he was a bag of nerves at the opening face-off, was only playing after starting goalie Tomas Hiadlovsky was given a match penalty for kicking out at Hull player-coach Sylvain Cloutier towards the end of Saturday night’s 6-3 loss in a heated encounter on Humberside. Hiadlovsky’s actions will be reviewed by the league’s disciplinary committee and it is expected the Slovak will be handed a five-game ban.

Holland said: “I got off to a slow start, but once I settled into the game I grew in confidence. After what happened on Saturday I was told I was playing tonight. I was nervous in the first couple of minutes and let in two soft goals. From then on I just tried to pull it together, take it one shot at a time, make myself look big in the net and hope the team could pull it back. I felt I played well, and to get the win just tops it off.”

Capitals’ player-coach Richard Hartmann, in an effort to produce more balanced scoring throughout the line-up, tinkered with his team, swapping experienced and skilled team captain Martin Cingel with Jade Portwood. Cingel worked well with new line mates Peter Holecko and Marcis Zembergs, while Portwood added his physicality and workrate to the combination of Hartmann and Rene Jarolin, and for the first time this season Edinburgh outshot their opponents.

Hartmann said: “I changed things around, as we need to start scoring more than two goals a game. We did today and that’s what brought us our success. I’m happy for him (Holland). He’s worked really hard for this chance and he did well.”

Capitals fans felt they would be in for a long night after Hull raced to a 2-0 lead after only five minutes. Edinburgh’s defence allowed Janis Ozolins far too much time and space to skate in on Holland and the Latvian produced a fine finish. He was then on hand to tap home at the far post after Holland failed to deal with a puck that rolled across his crease.

Despite the score the home side dominated the opening period, firing in 13 shots to the visitors four, and deservedly pulled a goal back in the 12th minute when Dobron blasted a shot from range past Stingrays goaltender Ben Bowns.

Last season’s goal sensation, Jarolin, scored in the 26th and 31st minutes to put the home side 3-2 ahead, and was only denied a hat-trick minutes later after he was robbed by a terrific Bowns glove save.

Hull’s Christopher Sykes equalised and rounded off the scoring with his first goal of the season at 37.25.

Both goalies made big saves in the closing stages, Capitals dominated the overtime session, but could not get past Bowns, who picked up his side’s man-of-the-match award.

Meanwhile, Capitals’ co-owner Scott Neil declared it would be unlikely the club would appeal any ban given to Hiadlovsky after he kicked out in retaliation for being hit by a stick when lying flat on his back during Saturday night’s loss.

Neil said: “There is a five-game penalty for any kicking incident, and whilst there may be extenuating circumstances, it looks like he has kicked out and he deserves the punishment. Thankfully nobody was injured, but someone could have been and that’s why such harsh penalties are put in place.”