Edinburgh Capitals missed the opportunity to make it a four-point weekend as they were beaten 4-1 by Gardiner Conference rivals Manchester Storm at Murrayfield Ice Rink.
It was the Storm’s third consecutive win over Edinburgh, on what proved to be a disappointing end to a weekend that started so brightly after the Capitals returned north on Saturday from Nottingham with their first away league points of the season. The Capitals would have to make do without Matt Tipoff who missed this one through illness, but they welcomed back Jared Staal who had sat out the 4-2 win over the Panthers.
Looking to continue that momentum in this one, Edinburgh were quicker out of the traps and, after Paul Phillips’ routine shot was padded away by Travis Fullerton, the Capitals would score on their first real opening of the game with 3:52 played.
It was all Mason Wilgosh’s own making as he pressured Phillips into making a mistake at the Storm blue-line, capitalised on the loose puck, and then played a neat one-two with Pavel Vorobyev before tucking in at the back door past Mike Clemente.
Manchester were quickly on the front foot in search of an immediate response and the Capitals had Fullerton to thank for preserving their lead. After smart play behind the Edinburgh net, the arriving Mario Trabucco’s shot was somehow plucked out of the air by the excellent Fullerton.
As it happens though, that proved to be a brief respite. After Karel Hromas had latched onto Vorobyev’s inviting pass and forced a gloved stop, the Storm would respond on the power play following a hooking call against Garrett Milan.
It took the visitors just twenty five seconds to cash in as Trevor Johnson’s blue-line slapshot found the back of the net. It may have been redirected in front but the Storm didn’t care one iota as they knotted up the scores on the power play at 1 apiece with 13:28 to play.
The Capitals were unlucky not to re-establish their lead within minutes when Michael D’Orazio’s effort slammed wide and Wilgosh’s rebound nearly found a way home. By now both sides were trading chances and a neat square pass by Jack Prince nearly connected with the arriving Eric Neilson as Manchester tried to up the ante.
A quick break set Milan clear but the impressive Clemente would begin a familiar theme of frustrating the Capitals, steering the effort away with the blocker. Up the other end, Edinburgh were left breathing a huge sigh of relief when a Prince blue-line effort was tipped by D’Orazio but Fullerton was alive to the danger to make a neat glove save.
Manchester were beginning to creep into the ascendancy with Neilson shooting wide off a deflection and former Edinburgh forward Taylor Dickin and Patrik Valcak combining well only for Tyler Plews to cut out the pass.
The Storm’s man of the match, Darian Dziurzynski, nearly handed Manchester the lead with just over five minutes to play as he attempted to round the Capitals’ netminder, but he was to be denied by a sprawling Fullerton.
Edinburgh were gifted an opportunity to kick start their stuttering power play following a tripping call against Trabucco. Jacob Johnston would fire two quick slapshots wide before Jaroslav Hertl and Staal combined well with the latter firing on goal from the point. It was an effort that culminated in the goal coming off its hinges for the first of several times in the game, though there was no delay of game penalty despite the Capitals’ protestations.
The Storm rallied on the first of their successive penalty kills on the night and there were a succession of chances as period one wound down. Dziurzynski’s shot from the point was gloved by Fullerton, before the Capitals’ netminder did well to hang on to a Connor Varley shot as he was screened on the play.
With both sides level at 1-1 heading into the second, period two had a distinctly feisty and frenetic feel to it. Dickin’s audacious wrap around effort forced a mad scramble in the Capitals’ crease before the hosts would have a huge two-on-one opportunity up the other end.
Vorobyev raced away but Paul Swindlehurst did magnificently well to cut out a square pass intended for the arriving Yevgeni Fyodorov. It was a huge passage of play.
Moments later, in a near carbon copy play, Vorobyev would find Fyodorov on this occasion and his blistering effort would scrape the side netting as the Capitals searched for their second of the night.
The end to end nature of the game continued with Wilgosh forcing Clemente into work at one end, and Valcak racing clear at the other only to drive wide from a promising position. Both teams were sensing an opportunity to strike and Edinburgh very nearly did off a turnover on the edge of the Storm’s D zone. Ian Schultz showed great awareness to strip the puck away and release Karel Hromas but the net came loose at the most inopportune moment.
It would prove to be a crucial missed opportunity as, moments later, Manchester would find the net again. A superb pass from the point eventually found its way to the arriving Trabucco who made no mistake, crashing his effort past Fullerton with 14:07 to play.
It commenced a crazy passage of play that would do much to decide the outcome of the game. With the Storm buoyed by their first lead of the night, Wilgosh was called for high-sticking that was then upgraded to a double-minor to put the Storm on the power play for a second time.
Less than a minute later and with Edinburgh doing their best on the penalty kill, a 5 on 4 quickly became a 5 on 3 with player/coach Michal Dobron called for cross-checking on Trabucco. It was now firmly backs to the wall stuff.
Manchester would strike again, capitalising on their two man advantage, with Matt Bissonette’s pass finding Dziurzynski for his first of the night and extending the Storm’s lead to two in the process. It was an exercise in patience after some neat build-up play, but it was worth the wait.
Edinburgh returned to full-strength without further damage but the Storm had the bit between their teeth. Varley’s effort after finding a shooting lane was well saved as the visitors looked to grab the game and run with it.
But they weren’t without their scares. The excellent Wilgosh capitalised on a handling error to race clear only for the imposing presence of Clemente to block the effort away. Had that gone in it may have changed the course of the game.
D’Orazio was at the heart of two bits of play that geed up the home crowd when he first fired wide with Milan unable to quite force home the rebound and then, up the other end, a huge D’Orazio hit typified the feistiness of period two as Edinburgh searched for a route back into the contest.
They were presented with an ideal opportunity to do just that when the ill-disciplined Dallas Ehrhardt was called for roughing on Milan to set up the Capitals’ next power play opportunity.
Dobron and Johnston would fire over in quick succession before a tipped effort involving Taylor MacDougall and Staal rather summed up Edinburgh’s evening to that point. Manchester killed off the penalty to remain perfect on the penalty kill with a spate of opportunities coming and going for both sides as period two came towards its conclusion.
First Manchester player/coach Omar Pacha’s blue-line shot was gloved, before Hromas’ strong forechecking presented an opening for Schultz and, after his effort was parried back out, Milan nearly cashed in but Clemente saved well again.
The lively Cody Cartier, who netted a hat-trick in Manchester against the Capitals last weekend, tried his luck with a wrap-around shot but Fullerton was alert to smother the puck. It commenced an incredible succession of saves for Fullerton who would save from Dickin and two follow up efforts to keep the score at 3-1.
A roughing call against both Johnston and Ehrhardt would carry over into the beginning of period three, but rather than providing a platform for the Capitals to launch one of their trademark comebacks, it resulted in Manchester killing off the contest.
Just over thirty seconds was all the Storm needed for goal number four. It looked rather innocuous with Varley throwing the puck on net, though it did appear to take a deflection off Dziurzynski for his second of the night beating Fullerton short-side.
What was a difficult task had become that little bit tougher as the Capitals went in search of a momentum shifter of their own. Dobron’s clever shot was redirected by Hromas without threatening the Manchester net, before Johnston would tee up Schultz for a quick effort which Clemente dealt with.
Dickin nearly netted his first goal against his former employers on a break before Vorobyev forced a stick save from Clemente up the other end of the ice. A bullet pass from the Capitals’ D zone released Staal and his spin-move shot was well saved by Clemente who had to be on his toes.
With just over ten minutes to play, the Capitals would be given another chance on the power play after a high-sticking call against Dickin but their special teams play hasn’t clicked in recent games and they were left frustrated once again.
It quickly became a 5 on 3 when Trabucco was called for roughing but the Storm did well to clear their zone limiting the Capitals to only half chances. Dobron tried his luck with a stinging slapshot that was sticked away as the hosts continued to pepper the Manchester net.
When Johnston’s effort on goal hit his own man, it rather summed up Edinburgh’s night on the power play as Manchester kept up their 100% record on the penalty kill in this one.
If that wasn’t enough, Edinburgh were left cursing their luck when Hertl and Fyodorov combined, only for the latter to slam his effort off the bar and back out into play. It rather summed up a night in which Edinburgh couldn’t be faulted for effort, but just lacked the cutting edge and the bit of luck required to get the better of a stubborn Clemente.
The Storm netminder continued to deal with everything that came his way, saving with the glove from efforts by Johnston and Vorobyev as the Capitals huffed and puffed in search of a reply.
Manchester may have added a fifth late on, had it not been for tremendous covering play by D’Orazio to thwart a two-on-one after Hertl carelessly lost the puck at centre ice.
In the end it mattered little as Manchester notched up a deserved 4-1 win with perhaps the perfect away performance, registering twice on the power play on their way to four unanswered goals. It also handed them two big Gardiner Conference points following on from the one point they gained in an overtime loss in Cardiff on Saturday. For Edinburgh, it is their third loss in a row against Manchester, as the Capitals failed to build on their impressive 4-2 win in Nottingham.
Forward Ian Schultz admitted that Edinburgh need to find a way to get one over Manchester, but he insisted that the team know where they went wrong and will be working hard to put it right, after slipping to a disappointing 4-1 defeat.
“Anytime you don’t come up with the W, it’s always frustrating. That’s a very good hockey club over there in Manchester and we had our opportunities to make it a bit of a closer game but we just couldn’t capitalise on them. When you come with some momentum against a big team like we had against Nottingham last night, you kind of want to build on the positives. We had a good start but we never really got the momentum rolling the way we needed to, and the end result is what it is.
“They kind of have our number so far, I think we’re 1-3 against them so far this season. Any time a team gets your number it’s never too reassuring when you know you may have to face them later in the play-offs or something along those lines. We’re going to go back to the drawing board, we know what we did wrong and we know what we need to do better to give ourselves a better opportunity to win the next time against these guys. We’re not going to panic, we’re going to build on what we have and go from there.
“A little bit,” said Schultz when asked if the middle period was the momentum changer. “But we also had a lot of opportunities to score ourselves. We had a couple of two on ones, a couple of three on twos, a couple of good back door plays, their goalie made big saves or the net came off at the wrong time. That’s just the way hockey is. If it was perfect every time it would be a 10 nothing game every night but mistakes happen and that was a big power play goal for them and a big power play momentum shift for them. But we felt we had the opportunity to shift the ice in our direction too but we just never capitalised on it.
“Absolutely,” said Schultz when asked if the Nottingham win is the performance they should be aiming to replicate every game. “We always knew we had something special in this team. You look around the room and there is a lot of experience and a lot of good players, and a lot of players that bring a different ideology and different persona to this team. I think that’s what makes us so dangerous and unique and we’re going to be dangerous coming down the stretch when we finally get everything clicked in and the chemistry together, we’re going to be a tough team to beat. Last night [in Nottingham] was a prime example of that.”