Short-benched and ground down
A very understrength Edinburgh Capitals faced Sheffield Steelers at Murrayfield on Sunday 21st January in the Elite League. Although the Capitals had had a strong showing the day before, the team had lost more players to injury/illness with forwards Valeyev, Boyd and Ireland out due to injury, Banashkov out due to illness and defensemen Teslyukevich out to injury and Kolesnikovs out due to illness. This left the team with six import forwards - and of course our promising Scottish forwards and three import defence.
Capitals had worn their home strip against Clan the night before so were in white for a home game, and Sheffield saw fit to mark the Scottish game by wearing their Irn Bru-like strip.
Sheffield looked out of sorts through the first few minutes - perhaps feeling the effects of the journey. Capitals, by comparison made the best start, when our top line got in on a two-man attack, and Vorobyev was able to deke it past Mustokovs, the Steelers’ goalie to give the Capitals a 1-0 lead with a little more than 2:30 minutes gone. Assists went to Cazzola and Plews.
From then on, the Steelers tightened up however, and pushed hard back against the Capitals, giving the Capitals barely any opportunities of their own, while the Steelers spent a lot of time attacking the Capitals’ net. Beskorowany however had an excellent period, saving all of the 20 shots which were put on his net, including a Sheffield power play when Moisio was given a minor for tripping. This also saw a glorious short-handed opportunity for the Capitals, with Vorobyev forcing a turnover on the Steelers’ blue line, which left him going in alone, but he sent the shot high trying to beat Mustokovs from the circles.
Nevertheless, the Capitals finished the period holding their 1-0 lead and had worked hard to stop the Steelers scoring, with a lot of close marking and stick work going on through the period.
Into the second, and the Steelers had changed their attack, concentrating more on driving to the net to stop the Edinburgh side collapsing around it so much. This proved to be successful when, with five minutes played, Shudra was able to get to a rebound in the crease and get it past Beskorowany to tie things at 1-1.
Mosio had a good opportunity at the ten minute mark, when he and Podzins had a strong shift, resulting in Mosio driving in on Mustokovs but Mustokovs was able to block the shot to his five-hole.
For a moment, it looked like the Capitals were gaining some ground as they started to break more often into the Sheffield end.
That seemed short-lived however when Sheffield took the lead with Neiley putting one past Beskorowany, with a third coming less than 90 seconds later. However Capitals appealed that goal, saying the shot - a blue line shot directed by Roy - was tipped with a high stick. The officials decided it was a good goal, putting the Steelers 3-1 up.
The dagger came with under two minutes to go in the second, when a rebound from a Beskorowany save feel to Shudra and he chipped it past the sprawling goalie to give the Steelers a 4-1 lead.
The shots for the period - 21 on Beskorowany and 6 on Mustukovs summed up how the run of play had been in the period.
By the third, it was evident that the combination of score and short-bench were sucking the life out of the Capitals as they struggled to get much of anything going. However, they were still fighting to contain the Steelers and a glimmer of hope came when appeals from the crowd and the bench highlighted to the linesmen that half of the Steelers team was on the ice at once - or at least, that’s what it seemed like from the crowd! The first Capitals power play was duly awarded, but the Capitals struggled to get set up in the zone and were not able to convert on it.
Just before the halfway mark in the period, the Capitals defence broke down again, with Phillips scoring a lovely top shelf shot from a bad angle, to increase the Steelers lead to 5-1.
Capitals showed some signs of life when missing on an empty net opportunity at around the halfway mark - the Steelers defence doing a good job of keeping Vorobyev’s stick tied up so he couldn’t even get a shot off, before they were able to scramble the puck clear.
An exchange of power plays (Kirk for hooking, then Grigors, also for hooking) couldn’t see either side score, although the Capitals’ power play looked more effective.
But it was in the dying minutes of the third, that Steelers scored two more to take the score to 7-1, giving Shudra his hat trick and beating a demoralised and frankly tired looking Capitals side.
Capitals Man of the Match was Cazzola who had a strong game with his line carrying the best of the Capitals play. Shudra got the Sheffield Man of Match with a hat trick on the night.
The game was not a pretty game - Sheffield’s style does not seem attractive to a non-Sheffield fan, relying on a grinding, heavy game, but Sheffield were able to take the chances they were presented with. With two of the Capitals more reliable defence men missing, it was apparent how much those pair are missed in a game like this, with a lot of battles around the crease and the Capitals struggling to clear pucks from critical areas.
With two home games next weekend (Guildford Flames on Saturday and Dundee Stars on Sunday) Capitals will be hoping they get some players back onto the bench.