This year may have been a disappointment for fans of the Edinburgh Capitals Elite League team – but the same cannot be said for followers of their title-chasing Scottish National League squad, who face-off against Solway Sharks at Murrayfield on Sunday (face-off 6pm).
With two games in hand over current leaders Kirckaldy Kestrels, who have completed their fixtures, Edinburgh must win both by a combined margin of 13 goals to pip Kirkcaldy to the title on goal difference, and claim their first national championship since 2001.
Capitals co-owner Scott Neil, who doubles up as coach to the SNL team, believes the addition to the side over the last 18 months of some of the clubs’ former Elite League players such as Mark Paterson and Ross Dalgleish – who also played with Belfast Giants and won an Elite League title with Nottingham Panthers in 2010 – is the catalyst behind the Caps’ resurgence at this level. And he argues the club has put the wheels in motion to benefit their Elite League aspirations in years to come.
“We’ve worked as a club to put a good structure in place. We’ve got guys who now want to come back and play for us and we have a squad of something like 26 players.
“Currently we have a great mix of youth and experience; younger guys who are trying to break into the Elite League team and some former Elite League players who have played at that higher level. Overall it’s the beginnings of a good platform to allow us to develop talent, which is the team’s ultimate aim.
“What we’re looking at for next year is to add summer training both on and off the ice, and increase on ice practice time for the SNL players.
“We’re trying to increase the potential for these guys to develop as players and take their game to a higher level, and I believe we have a core group of guys who are buying into that.”
The SNL squad, who last season won the Scottish Cup, includes players who have made senior appearances this season, such as Jay King and Joel Gautschi, as well as Ross Hay who played alongside brother Neil, and current Elite League player, in the club’s British National League days.
“There are a lot of good players who play at this level,” added Neil. “Some I believe are good enough to play Elite League hockey.
“In the past talented players would have a chance to play or train with the top team from a young age, these opportunities are limited now. The SNL can fill that void but the clubs must work together to grow the stature of the league and the players within it.”