Defenceman Jan Safar admitted Edinburgh Capitals had no answer to a first-period onslaught from Belfast Giants as the Elite League ice hockey leaders triumphed 7-2 at Murrayfield last night.
The visitors and champions elect were ahead 6-1 after just 20 minutes and the gulf in class was as wide as the Causeway from which the Northern Irish outfit – who sit 17 points ahead of second-placed Dundee Stars – take their name.
Safar said: “Belfast are a really good team. They jumped on us right away and got everything going. They scored two very early goals and we lost our focus. They were executing their chances and punishing our mistakes, which was just too bad for us. The game was over after 20 minutes.”
Belfast looked bigger, faster, and played smarter than a lacklustre Edinburgh. GB internationalist Colin Shields, defencemen Calvin Elfring and Jeff Mason, plus the first of a hat-trick for Canadian forward Dustin Whitecotton, had them four ahead early on. Curtis Leinweber pulled one back for Edinburgh but there was still time for Shields and Whitecotton to score their second goals of the game before the first period buzzer sounded to give a shell-shocked home side some respite.
Edinburgh missed defensive catalyst Michal Dobron. The experienced former Czech internationalist suffered a badly cut knee midway through Saturday’s 5-2 Forth derby defeat to Fife Flyers. With utility player Neil Hay also injured, player-coach Richard Hartmann dropped back from his usual forward position to play defence. An enforced change that Safar believed alters the whole dynamic of the Capitals team.
He said: “Dobs is a big part of our team and when he’s out of the line-up that’s a huge loss for us. Richard had to cover for him on defence, but really we need him up front because he is our playmaker and one of our guys that can make that killer pass.”
Capitals forward Jade Portwood grabbed the only goal of the second period, Whitecotton completing the scoring early in the third. Whitecotton had a hand in six of Belfast’s seven goals, with the 34-year-old getting a deserved man-of the-match award.
Last night’s result leaves Edinburgh three points behind Fife at the foot of the table and five points outside of the last play-off berth currently occupied by Cardiff Devils.
“We have to put this behind us and move forward if we want to make something of the rest of the season”, said Safar. “We will get back to training tomorrow and prepare for two massive games this weekend.” Sunday sees Cardiff visit Murrayfield and Safar continued: “We’ve got 16 games to go, two of them against Cardiff and three against Fife, and the results of those games will go a long way to determine whether or not we make the play-offs. We all want this, we’re prepared to put our bodies on the line, but we just need a few more bounces to go our way.”
Reflecting on the weekend, Capitals’ Curtis Leinweber refused to believe that a disappointing result in Kirkcaldy on Saturday, in a much closer match the score-line suggested, had any bearing on Edinburgh’s disastrous start against Belfast, but said: “We have to be mentally strong and figure out what the heck’s going on.”