Edinburgh Capitals made it a week to remember by registering their fourth consecutive win, this time against Manchester Storm, to begin their Elite League campaign on a positive note. They did it in dramatic fashion, requiring overtime for the third time in four games, before settling the score in the shootout thanks to Pavel Vorobyov.
Two wins over Braehead Clan and victory over the Fife Flyers meant the Capitals came into this one full of confidence, especially when you consider the manner of the victories. In each of their last two games, Edinburgh have recovered from 2-0 deficits to win. But visitors Manchester Storm look like a much stronger outfit this season and arrived at Murrayfield Ice Rink on a decent run of form themselves.
Beginning the game short-benched due to injuries to Ian Schultz, Garrett Milan, Karel Hromas and player/coach Michal Dobron, unsurprisingly it was the visitors who began the brighter. Dallas Ehrhardt went close twice, the first effort from the blue-line was covered by Travis Fullerton following a deflection and the second was pushed away by the Capitals’ netminder.
That seemed to kick Edinburgh into life who would force Mike Clemente into work soon afterwards with Vorobyov and Sean Beattie combining well to set up a shooting opportunity. But the Capitals were soon let off the hook when a shot from Paul Swindlehurst was parried back into the slot, though Mario Trabucco couldn’t divert home the rebound.
Taylor MacDougall was next to go close when he did well to tip Jared Staal’s dangerous effort towards goal but Manchester snuffed out the danger relatively well. It was Edinburgh who were first on the power play when Ehrhardt was called for interference as Staal went close to opening the scoring but for good reactions from Clemente.
It began a familiar theme in the first period as the Storm rallied to kill the penalty off before the visitors would have their first power play opportunity of the game with Martin Cingel penalised for hooking. Edinburgh would go close, however, to a short-handed goal as the dangerous Staal saw his shot ricochet over Clemente’s cage.
The stop-start nature of the period didn’t abate with Mason Wilgosh called for slashing and Darian Dziurzynski guilty of hooking to set up a 4-on-4 situation. Michael D’Orazio and Jay King combined well but the latter’s shot skipped wide before former Capitals forward Taylor Dickin, on his first return to Murrayfield, failed to find the net as he attempted to steer home Cody Cartier’s initial effort.
As the period ticked towards its conclusion, Matt Tipoff wasn’t far away from breaking the deadlock when he reacted smartly to tip Vorobyov’s wrist shot on goal. Chances came and went in a scoreless first period as Jack Prince forced Fullerton into a double save, before Vorobyov went close to a short-handed opener.
Having out-shot the Storm 11-8 in the first period, Edinburgh were quickly in the ascendancy in period two with MacDougall flicking wide after good work by Rihards Grigors and playmaker Staal. But the Capitals were given a reminder about the dangers of overplaying in their own D zone when Tipoff surrendered the puck and Storm player/coach Omar Pacha was inches away from finding the net.
Sensing an opportunity, the Storm would go close again, this time on a breakaway, as the lively Patrik Valcak tried to deceive Fullerton with nifty stick work but the Capitals’ netminder was alive to the danger to divert away with his pads.
It would prove to be an important save as, moments later, Harry Ferguson lofted a pass in the vicinity of Staal and he opportunistically capitalised on a slack bit of defending to race through one-on-one with Clemente. Waiting for the netminder to commit, Staal seized his chance on the backhander to hand Edinburgh the lead with 15:11 remaining in the period.
After a mad scramble in the Edinburgh crease, the Capitals were unfortunate not to grab a second as Beattie rattled the post after neat build up play by Vorobyov. Manchester Storm were beginning to grow into the period themselves as Dziurzynski forced a glove save from Fullerton.
The Capitals were let off again, not once but twice, when first the puck somehow wasn’t diverted home after good build-up play by the visitors, and then the Storm hit the side netting as they continued to up the ante.
Ferguson and Staal, who had combined to great effect at one end, nearly gifted the Storm a leveller soon after, turning over the puck deep in their own zone. Fullerton bailed his side out when he stood tall to deflect the puck away in what was perhaps his biggest save of the second period.
Russian duo Vorobyov and Yevgeni Fyodorov combined well though to set up the Capitals’ next chance but Clemente was alert to save on two occasions to keep the score at 1-0. It proved to be an important passage of play as Manchester were level before the end of the period.
Paul Phillips and Pacha had both gone close, but there was to be no stopping Cartier on this occasion as he squeezed home a shot past Fullerton who was a little exposed on his right side, assisted by Connor Varley with 2:43 to play.
Wilgosh would go close to re-establishing Edinburgh’s lead when he couldn’t quite stab home after good work by Vorobyov and Tipoff, and then the Canadian smashed the iron from an extraordinarily tight angle. Fullerton was then called into action up the other end late in the period from Valcak and a routine glove stop from Varley as the second period ended 1-1.
Manchester Storm had peppered Edinburgh’s goal, out-shooting the Capitals 16-9 in the second and they were on the front foot early in the third period. Jaroslav Hertl carelessly lost the puck in his own zone but Dziurzynski could only find the imposing presence of Fullerton. Having kept out efforts from Valcak and Eric Neilson, Dickin forced Fullerton into action again with the pads.
But things were far from one sided. Beattie did well to instigate an Edinburgh break and, with the puck trapped up against the boards, he showed terrific perseverance to win it back and then force the Storm into conceding a cheap penalty.
Edinburgh began to pepper Clemente’s goal on the power play with Jacob Johnston’s shot into a crowded crease missing the net. Hertl would fire wide and Staal would see his effort saved as the Capitals looked to assert themselves once more.
Yet Manchester would maintain their perfect penalty killing performance, returning to full strength with just over 10 minutes remaining. The Storm would go on the power play themselves soon after with Staal guilty of holding the stick of his opponent, but Edinburgh were disciplined in their bid to keep the scores level.
Fyodorov fired an effort on goal as the Capitals searched for that elusive second, though the Storm would gain a huge opportunity of their own when Edinburgh captain Johnston was handed a double minor for high sticking to set up a 5-on-3 situation for Manchester.
It took the visitors just over a minute to capitalise on their two-man advantage as captain Trevor Johnson smashed an effort from the blue-line with 7:40 to go, assisted by Dickin and Cartier. At a first glance it did look like it took a deflection, but the goal was credited to Johnson who gave Manchester the lead for the first time on the night.
Edinburgh were back to even strength with just over 5 minutes remaining as Johnston fired two quick efforts in succession, without reward, at the Storm net. The Capitals were not finished there as Grigors’ effort from the blue-line was nearly tipped home by MacDougall as Manchester survived unscathed.
But, undeterred, Edinburgh kept plugging away and got a deserved leveller with 3:22 to play as Staal knocked in his second of the game, ably assisted by Wilgosh, to set up a dramatic finish. It was no more than the Capitals deserved for their persistence as they out-shot the Storm 16-8 in the final period of regulation.
The game ticked away to set up Edinburgh’s third taste of overtime action in a week as they looked to continue their winning streak. The Capitals began the five-minute overtime period with a man advantage thanks to a late Storm penalty against Dziurzynski for slashing.
The Storm survived, however, to leave just over three minutes of the regulatory 3-on-3 overtime remaining but neither side were able to force a winner, despite both Valcak sending Fullerton to work on a quick shot and Staal coming closest for the hosts as he searched for his hat-trick.
Guaranteed at least one point, it was Edinburgh’s first shootout of the season to decide the victors in this one as the Capitals sought to continue their good recent run and build on wins over Braehead and Fife in the Challenge Cup.
Wilgosh was up first in the shootout but he could only find Clemente who read the play well to divert clear. Cartier had the opportunity to hand the Storm an early advantage in the shootout but man-of-the-match Fullerton reacted well to keep the puck out.
Staal, arguably Edinburgh’s most potent player in the game, was unfortunate to see his penalty shot hit the upright as the scores remained tied, before Prince failed to pile the pressure on the hosts when Fullerton reacted well again to save.
Finally the tie score in the shootout was ended by Vorobyov who tucked home with consummate ease to hand Edinburgh a 1-0 lead, but the Storm responded in kind as Trabucco fired past Fullerton.
Tipoff and Dziurzynski would see their efforts saved, before Vorobyov stepped up again and took full advantage of Clemente’s slip to slam home into the empty net.
That left it to Trabucco to try to prolong the shootout in sudden death but Fullerton was alert to knock it away and cap another impressive 32-save performance. It handed Edinburgh the two points and a 3-2 shootout success to kick-off their Elite League campaign with a win, extending their winning run to four matches in the process.
Next up for the Capitals is a trip to the Dundee Stars in the Challenge Cup on Saturday, before they host the Fife Flyers at Murrayfield Ice Rink in the same competition the following day.
“It feels great. It’s been a pretty crazy week for our team, you know we’ve been down a few times and found a way to come back and win some hockey games,” said Staal reflecting on their 3-2 shootout win over Manchester Storm. “It’s been a lot of fun and this group of guys have been a lot of fun to play with so far. We haven’t given up in any of the games yet and we keep battling back and find a way to get results.”
“These guys are never going to give up no matter how the game is going or what the score is,” Staal said when asked about the team’s ability to keep going and fight back from losing positions. “We have a lot of guys on this team and it’s the reason we’ve been able to come back from deficits so far this week. You never want to be behind every game, but it’s nice to be able to find a way to win.”
“The way it is right now for our team I feel there is a quiet confidence in our group that no matter what happens, penalties or when we’re down, we think we have a chance to win a game,” said Staal when referencing the shift in momentum following his leveller in the third period. “It’s the same thing tonight, they took the lead and we never gave up and we knew we would have a chance at the end to win the hockey game.”
“It’s one of those things, you kind of keep rolling with what we’re doing,” said Staal when asked about what Coach Dobron said before the shootout. “He didn’t have to say too much, we just knew what guys were up to shoot next and Pav [Pavel Vorobyov] ends up making two good goals in the shootout and it ends up getting us the win.”
“It’s one of those things throughout the year you have points where things are going your way and you seem to be in the right spot at the right time,” said Staal when asked about his two-goal performance that took his tally to five for the season. “Right now that’s happening for me and I’m trying to just roll with it. I know that it’s not going to be like that all year so I’m going to enjoy the ride right now and hopefully keep putting pucks in the net.”
“We really are taking it one game at a time. We have a few injuries right now already and we are playing some games short of some guys. The good thing is we’re going to get some guys back, hopefully soon enough, and hopefully make our team stronger.”