Caly Robertson settles in to aid Leeds Chiefs late playoff charge

HE MAY not have invested the same amount of blood, sweat and tears as many of his Leeds Chiefs team-mates, but opening night at Elland Road last Friday was still a special moment for Caly Robertson.

Wednesday, 5th February 2020, 7:06 pm
Updated Friday, 7th February 2020, 9:07 pm
WELCOME: Leeds Chiefs' Caly Robertson battles with Sheffield Steeldogs' Craig Elliott at Elland Road last Friday. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.

WATCH - Leeds Chiefs coach Sam Zajac delighted with late roster additions

The 19-year-old forward had only signed up with the NIHL National outfit 24 hours earlier, but it had been a long journey for him to get there.

Having taken the decision to move to England in order to further his career last summer, Robertson probably didn’t envisage he would be at his third team with around two months of the season remaining.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Player-coach Sam Zajac first tried to sign Caly Robertson back in November when he had been released by Milton Keynes Lightning. Picture courttesy of Kevin Slyfield

Having spent two seasons in the Elite League, the first with Edinburgh Capitals, the second with hometown team Fife Flyers, Robertson headed south in order to gain more ice time, seeing the newly-formed English second-tier as providing the best opportunity.

His first port of call with Milton Keynes Lightning ended after a poor start to the campaign saw roster changes implemented by head coach Lewis Clifford just over two months in, with Robertson one of those to exit.

Bracknell Bees beat off the Chiefs and at least two other teams to sign up Robertson and he certainly impressed, posting 13 points, including eight goals, in 11 appearances, playing a pivotal role on a productive line that contained import Domink Gabaj and fellow GB Under-20 international, Zack Milton.

But while he thrived on the ice, he struggled to settle off it, it was, after all, his first time living away from Kirkcaldy where he had grown up.

It’s hoped the move north to Leeds - where he has been greeted by a number of familiar Scottish faces on the roster - will make it easier to maintain closer links back home.

“I wanted to test myself in the new league, so making the move to England, to this league, where you’re going to get the quality ice time and it is going to be competitive, was an obvious choice,” explained Robertson.

“With Leeds the first time around, it was just a case of bad timing with the rink not being ready and the fact they were only training once a week.

“I enjoyed my time in Bracknell, playing under Doug Sheppard. I liked the hockey, I was getting a lot of opportunities and playing with good players.

“But it was just quite hard being pretty much the opposite side of the country, not getting home hardly at all. Being in Leeds, though, it is easier to get home or for family to come down here and watch - it just made sense.

“And I knew the rink was going to be pretty much ready, so that would mean regular home games and more training, which is really important.

“I’ve settled in pretty quickly, I already know a bunch of guys on the team which always helped.”

Even though he barely had time to acquaint himself with his new team-mates, Robertson was aware how important Friday night was to Sam Zajac’s team, particularly those who had been in from the first puck drop last September.

“It was a big night for the team, especially the guys who have been here since the start, they were excited about it all and relieved to get that first home game under their belts,” added Robertson.

“I felt I played fairly well. I wasn’t perfect, there were a few things that could have been better but it was a good first game on the whole. It was a frustrating night, we had a lot of chances and the scoreline wasn’t a true reflection of the game.”

With just 16 games left, the Chiefs need to overturn an 11-point deficit in order to make the playoffs but Robertson says the will and talent is on the Chiefs’ roster to upset the odds.

“It’s going to be tough to overhaul both Bracknell and Raiders, but it is definitely possible,” he added. “The guys are intent on making that eighth spot ours. Looking at recent results and performances, we’re capable, it’s just about keeping that form going until the end of the season.”