Ice Hockey: Capitals go down in a Blaze of glory after battle with Coventry

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EDINBURGH CAPITALS showed they have the stomach to battle for a place in the Elite League ice hockey play-offs, despite going down 3-2 to Coventry Blaze in controversial circumstances on Saturday night.

It was a massive improvement on the performance that saw them lose 10-4 to Cardiff Devils on Thursday and, whatever doubts anyone had that Richard Hartmann’s men could muster any kind of enthusiasm after such a crushing defeat, only needed to see this to confirm Caps haven’t given up.

They aren’t out of the woods yet. Trips to Challenge Cup winners Nottingham Panthers and Sheffield Steelers lie in wait before a potential do-or-die clash with Fife Flyers this Sunday.

But Capitals bench coach Jock Hay believed his side were unlucky in a match where they took the lead and lost out to a goal, which may, or may not, have crossed Nathan Craze’s line in the Edinburgh goal. Hay thought it had.

“From where I was on the bench, I thought the puck came off the back pads, but I couldn’t be too sure,” Hay sighed. “For me, we were the better team and I thought we had more quality shots over them in the whole game. I’m disappointed we didn’t get anything though because I felt we deserved it.”

The Capitals started well, looking solid in defence and although the Blaze looked good in going forward, they just couldn’t find their way to goal. Rene Jarolin punished that by picking up Hartmann’s pass down the left, gliding inside then dispatching the puck past Coventry keeper Peter Hirsch.

It was the same in the early part of the second, with Peter Holecko trickling his shot wide, but the home goal was finally breached as Robert Farmer’s blocked shot was finished by Shea Guthrie and the Blaze were level.

Paul Thompson’s side upped the ante and it seemed inevitable when Russell Cowley put them ahead minutes later, poking past Craze from close range. Now it was a test of character. The last thing they needed was Jozef Sladok getting into a fight with Jeremie Domish and earning a game misconduct. But this galvanised the Caps and when Jan Safar prodded in Holecko’s pass near the end of the second it was no more than they deserved for the guile shown.

Dustin Wood saw two chances denied by Craze early in the third, then Peter Nylander’s shot came off the post and might have trickled over the line. It was enough to convince Neil Wilson, the referee, and the Blaze were ahead once more.

The home side put the pressure on the final few minutes and gave themselves a man advantage by pulling Craze from his net. A chance from Marcis Zembergs struck Hirsch’s near side post then Menton’s reverse pass found the Lithuanian, but he could only put it wide.

Time sadly ran out on them and while there was great pride in the performance, the pain of losing was all too evident among the players.

Their display drew great praise from Coventry’s coach Paul Thompson afterwards. “I’m really surprised Edinburgh are where they are to be honest, because every time we’ve played them they have given us one hell of a game. We might not be a top team, but as a mid-table side they are a really difficult outfit to play against.”

Now it’s full steam ahead to the climactic week of the season and any points from Nottingham or Sheffield would be a big help. Fife certainly won’t make things easy for them in Sunday’s final game if eighth place is still up for grabs.