Elite Ice Hockey League: Edinburgh Capitals shoot into play-off berth

Braehead Clan celebrate on the ice, November 2012.
Braehead Clan has reason to celebrate with a win over the Hull Stingrays.© Kris Jack

A four point weekend for Edinburgh Capitals is the talk of the Gardiner Conference as two massive wins over Cardiff Devils and Hull Stingrays sees them surge for a play-off berth.

Paul Gardner's first game in charge of the Clan sees a narrow but needed win, while Dundee Stars and Fife Flyers share 16 goals over two nights in another action packed weekend.

SATURDAY

Cardiff Devils 4-5 Edinburgh Capitals(AOT)

The Capitals continued their wonderful winter winning ways by grabbing an impressive and hard fought victory over Gerad Adams' Cardiff Devils. It was the first win for the Edinburgh side in the Big Blue Tent in three years, and was the first of two huge wins over the weekend.

It didn't start well for the visitors though, as Mac Faulkner had the Devils one up after just 63 seconds. This was compounded by Mark Smith's powerplay strike at 7:17 to give the Devils a 2-0 lead. However, the man to pull the Caps out of the mire was Rene Jarolin, who halved the deficit at 8:05.

Richard Hartmann was on hand to haul his side level at the start of the second period, paving the way for his side to go from two goals down to two goals ahead. Marcis Zembergs made it 3-2 at 24:51, before Michal Dobron netted a shorthanded strike at 33:22 to increase the lead. The Devils hadn't given up though and by the 35 minute mark, they were level, through Josh Batch and Stuart MacRae.

With a cagey third failing to produce a winner, the game went to overtime, and was won by the Capitals at 2:41 in the extra period, when Jarolin netted a penalty shot to secure the extra point.

Fife Flyers 5-0 Dundee Stars

Having completed a six point weekend last weekend, the Dundee Stars came crashing back to earth with a thumping defeat at the hands of the Flyers. The Fife side themselves had been on a four game winless run, but more than made up for it against the high flying Stars, with Bryan Pitton recording a confidence boosting shutout.

Brit John Dolan opened the scoring on 6:06 for the Kirkcaldy club, before Kris Hogg doubled the lead at 14:06, as the Flyers took control early on in their own barn. The Stars struggled to respond in the second period and fell further behind when Hogg grabbed his second of the match just before the midway point.

With Bryan Pitton doing his job perfectly in the home goal, his brother Jason all but sealed the win with the fourth goal of the Flyers' night, before coach Todd Dutiaume completed the five goal rout at 55:25.

Braehead Clan 2-1 Hull Stingrays (ASO)

The Clan's first game since the departure of Jordan Krestanovich gave new head coach Paul Gardner a debut win, after a tense low scoring affair against Hull. Both netminders were on top of their games for the first two periods, with Daren Machesney and Ben Bowns not willing to give up anything, as both sides looked for vital wins.

It took until the third for a net to bulge and it was Machesney who saw the puck go by him, as Jereme Tendler grabbed a shorthanded goal at 43:24, leaving Gardner with just 16 minutes to salvage something from his first game in charge.

Clan captain Ash Goldie was on hand to save his blushes, finishing well to tie the game on 56:17. With neither side able to take the scoring in to overtime, the game would be decided on penalty shots.

Tendler scored for Hull while Goldie missed for the Clan, before Janis Ozolins missed and Jade Galbraith tied it for the hosts. Curtis Dulle couldn't find the net, allowing Steve Birnstill to grab the first win of Paul Gardner's reign at Braehead.

SUNDAY

Dundee Stars 6-5 Fife Flyers(AOT)

The Stars got back to winning ways on home ice in a goal extravaganza in their second game of the weekend against Fife. They did it the hard way as well, giving up a 5-2 lead, to be forced to overtime, before Mike Wirll grabbed the decisive goal in overtime.

The game started in back and forth fashion, the Stars taking the lead through Billy Bagron, before Steven McAlpine tied the game for the visitors by 5:11. Stars captain AJ MacLean then put the Tayside team ahead at 7:14, ending the the first period goal rush.

Matt Baxter increased the lead with a shorthanded strike before a powerplay goal from the stick of Doug Krantz gave the Stars a 4-1 lead at 24:22. Kris Hogg responded the only way he knows how to, by pulling one back for Fife going in to the third session.

Bagron looked to have put the game to bed with ten minutes left in the game, but the Flyers didn't give up and so show managed to force an extra period.

Hogg grabbed a second of the night before Jamie Wilson made it a one goal game. Zac Carriveau then sent the travelling fans wild when he levelled with just over three minutes left to set up a nervy extra five minutes.

However, the five goals away from home weren't enough to give the Flyers a memorable win, as Mike Wirll netted on a powerplay after Danny Stewart had been binned for hooking, with just 16 seconds remaining, to settle a fantastic tie on Tayside.

Edinburgh Capitals 9-5 Hull Stingrays

A stunning first period performance from the Capitals saw the hosts take a 6-1 lead after 20 minutes, as they put the Stingrays to the sword on Sunday night. Having been so hard to break down the previous night at Braehead, Sylvain Cloutier's team were much more generous on this occasion, and despite mounting a comeback, were blown away by the Edinburgh attack.

The goals started flowing as early as 1:21 as Martin Cingel put the hosts ahead, before being joined on the scoresheet by Curtis Leinweber, Danny McIntyre, Neil Hay and Jade Portwood by the 12th minute, three of those strokes coming on the powerplay.

Continuing his recent run of goals, Jereme Tendler pulled one back for the Rays, but Brent Patry racked up another powerplay goal at 14:43 to see the period out at 6-1 ahead.

The second showed somewhat of a respite for Hull, as Tendler grabbed a second to make it 6-2 at 26:25, leaving his side with just the four goals to pull back going in to the final period.

However, a second double of the round for Rene Jarolin made it 8-2 for the Caps, before Jason Silverthorn rallied for the Stingrays at 47:55. Jade Portwood completed his brace to end the scoring a nine for the hosts, but Cloutier and Silverthorn scored two more in vain for the visitors, as Edinburgh racked up another impressive win and a four goal haul for the weekend.

STANDINGS

Edinburgh's four point weekend has helped the draw level on points with Hull at the bottom of the Gardiner, aiding them in their quest to make the playoffs having missed out on the Challenge Cup quarter finals.

The point for forcing overtime against Braehead stopped the Rays from going bottom and keeps the Clan at the top of the Conference by a solitary point over Dundee. The Stars remain above the Clan in the big league though, with Fife sitting three points adrift in third place in the Gardiner, after their weekend series.

Elsewhere in the EIHL...

Nottingham Panthers extended their lead at the top of the Elite League having gained a point in a 5-4 overtime defeat to their nearest rivals Belfast Giants and a 4-2 home win over third placed Sheffield Steelers in their weekend match ups.

The Giants, who were shocked at home to Dundee last weekend, ousted Coventry Blaze 2-0 to keep the pressure on the Panthers, with Cardiff trailing after their defeat to Edinburgh on Saturday.

RESULTS

Saturday
Braehead Clan 2-1 Hull Stingrays
Cardiff Devils 4-5 Edinburgh Capitals
Nottingham Panthers 4-5 Belfast Giants
Sheffield Steelers 4-2 Coventry Blaze
Fife Flyers 5-0 Dundee Stars

Sunday
Sheffield Steelers 2-4 Nottingham Panthers
Coventry Blaze 0-2 Belfast Giants
Edinburgh Capitals 9-5 Hull Stingrays
Dundee 6-5 Fife Flyers

Kris Jack is a sports blogger and commentator. You can follow him on Twitter @krisjack85.

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