Ice Hockey: Cingel sends out rallying call ahead of Panther hunt

MARTIN Cingel has seen the good and the bad times in nine seasons with Edinburgh Capitals.

The Slovakian sniper arrived at Murrayfield in 2002 and played 17 games, scoring 11 goals and setting up 12 others and, since then, Cingel has been a fixture with the club.

The 34-year-old, who skippers the team, is therefore one of the best players to run the rule over the current situation and, typically, he has vowed to dig deep. Coach Brad Gratton quit on Wednesday, just hours before the team lost at Sheffield, the third straight defeat to the Steelers in a matter of days.

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Cingel knows the problems both on and off the ice need fixing but he insists everyone concerned is working hard to ensure that Capitals get the best out of the undoubted quality players in the side.

Currently, coachless Edinburgh are struggling on nine points, seventh in the league. Four wins in 16 games tells its own sad story. Only 51 goals scored and 84 against does not make for pleasant reading. Scott Neil, the club's owner, and Jock Hay, the club's experienced bench coach, were in charge on Wednesday night in the defeat at Sheffield.

Eighth-placed Hull Stingrays have six points but have played four fewer games while Newcastle, who have played 16, have also six points. Elite League rookies Dundee CCS Stars, who started badly, have picked up and they now have four points. It's tight at the top but it's really tough at the bottom.

Cingel, who has scored five goals and set up 15 other strikes in 16 games so far this season, leads his squad against third-top Nottingham Panthers at the Riversdale rink on Sunday (face-off 6pm). It's Panthers' first trip to Edinburgh this season but they recorded an 8-2 home victory over Capitals earlier this term.

After 18 games, Panthers have won 13 and lost four, scoring 93 goals and losing 54 for 27 points, three behind pace-setting Belfast Giants having played the same number of games.

Cingel added: "We can play. On Sunday, we were in the game with Sheffield, one of the top teams.

"However, we took ten minutes out in the second period and that was it. We lost the game despite the fact that we were playing well.

"We played well on Saturday when we lost on penalty shots. It's disappointing. Everybody is disappointed and we know what we have to do.

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"We have to work. Our power play needs picked up and we'll work on that in training. We have some quality guys in the dressing-room.

"Alex Kim has been around and knows the game. We missed him at the weekend and on Wednesday through injury. He is a smart player and he is important to us as a centreman and playmaker. Hopefully, he'll be rested and be back for us as we need his qualities."

Cingel also doesn't want to face another hot goaltender like Sheffield's outstanding No.?1 Ervins Mustukovs. Cingel added: "He is a good player. He made some great stops in the games against us. He saved my one-on-one break on Sunday and then made two big stops from Jeff (Hutchins) late in the game.

"He also stopped good efforts from Adam (Taylor) and full credit to him. He's one of the top goaltenders in the stats and it shows."

That's sporting, but Capitals need a break to spark them and kick-start a move up the table.

Already, there is a massive gap emerging. Braehead Clan, who are sixth, have 16 points from 12 games, seven points ahead of Capitals who have played four more games.

The Braehead squad are eight points behind Cardiff Devils but have seven games in hand. They are nine adrift of fourth-placed Coventry Blaze, who have completed 19 fixtures.

Capitals are desperate to make the play-offs and Cingel is well aware of their situation. The club, quite simply, need to click into points-scoring mode quickly.

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Cingel said: "It will be really tough for us. Nottingham are here on Sunday and they are a quality side.

"We have work to do, we all know that. We have to take our chances when they come.

"We have talented guys on the team but we have to cut out mistakes as they are killing us."

Midlothian-based forward Jordan Steel will again miss out as his elbow injury continues to heal and coach Gratton will have to assess his other casualties after Wednesday's trip to Sheffield.

At least the bruised and battered squad have four days to shake off the midweek exertions while Nottingham are at Braehead tomorrow in a game which is sure to be testing given that Clan coach Bruce Richardson was an assistant player/coach at Nottingham for two seasons before moving north to take over the Elite League's new franchise.