Richard Bentham finds his comfort zone back on defence for Leeds Chiefs
THERE have been plenty of frustrations along the way and the playoffs may have ultimately proved elusive but Richard Bentham has enjoyed being part of history in Leeds Chiefs’ first-ever season.
Further disappointment came at the weekend when the Chiefs’ losing streak was stretched to four games with defeats at Milton Keynes Lightning and on home ice to NIHL National leaders Telford Tigers.
It was Bentham who pulled the Chiefs to within one of Telford at Elland Road on Sunday night, his power-play goal making it 4-3 with 16 minutes remaining.
And although the home side couldn’t quite manage to repeat their win over the same opponents at the same venue a month earlier, it was another example of the vital role the 29-year-old has played in the organisation’s first-ever season.
Last summer, Zajac recruited a player in Bentham who he knew had the versatility that would come in useful during his team’s debut campaign.
In recent years Bentham has found himself playing as a forward and that is where he started out life for the Chiefs.
But circumstances and necessity has dictated that Bentham has played a more defensive role in recent weeks, something he much prefers.
And although he has found himself patrolling the blue line for the most part, particularly since the turn of the year, it has not blunted his scoring contribution.
With six regular-season league games remaining, Bentham is third-highest goalscorer for the Chiefs with 13 goals, and with 14 assists also to his name, he is fourth overall in terms of points scored.
Given the Chiefs’ trouble in scoring goals all season – they are comfortably the lowest scorers in the division – his contributions have been vital.
“I’ve really enjoyed it, from a personal perspective,” said Bentham.
“I was playing forward for the last few years and I never really felt quite comfortable and Sam has given me the opportunity to play defence which is a lot more comfortable for me. I have been enjoying playing a lot more and when you are enjoying your hockey that is when you play at your best.”
Bentham has held talks with Zajac about the possibility of returning for a second season at Elland Road and is keen to make it happen, believing there is a strong core on the current roster that needs to be retained, with some additional quality needing to be recruited during the off-season.
“It is frustrating for us to have missed out on the playoffs, but I know every single one of us can hold our heads up high,” he added.
“It’s nice to finally be in this ice rink which everyone is absolutely buzzing with and it looks amazing.
I think it will be an attraction to everybody.
“Hopefully, we can keep a good core together but, the way things are in this day and age, to compete at the top you’ve got to have top players.”