Why Jordan Kelsall’s arrival at Leeds Chiefs could be perfectly timed

HE may be only two games into life as a Leeds Chiefs’ player, but Jordan Kelsall has already seen enough to convince him the team has the necessary quality to gatecrash the NIHL National playoffs.

Wednesday, 12th February 2020, 6:35 am
Updated Wednesday, 12th February 2020, 9:06 am
Jordan Kelsall, in action during Saturday's 3-2 win at home to leaders Telford Tigers. Picture courtesy of Mark Ferriss.

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The 20-year-old forward was a surprise late addition before the January 31 trade deadline when a two-way deal was struck between the Chiefs and Elite League Nottingham Panthers.

He was one of four January additions made by player-coach Sam Zajac, arriving barely 24 hours after fellow Great Britain Under-20 international Caly Robertson.

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WE MEET AGAIN: Familiarity with Leeds player-coach Sam Zajac from time spent playing alongside one another in Swindon two years ago, helped the move for Jordan kelsall. Picture courtesy of Mark Ferriss.

Both players found themselves thrown right in at the deep end somewhat, making their debuts in the organisation’s long-awaited first game at their new Elland Road rink.

And although opening night did not go quite as planned for the hosts as they went down 4-1 to Sheffield Steeldogs, they didn’t have to wait too much longer to have cause for celebration in front of their own fans.

Saturday night’s 3-2 win in overtime against league leaders Telford Tigers was played out in front of another 500-plus crowd and was further proof for Kelsall that the Chiefs can overturn the odds and extend their debut season beyond March 22 by clinching a top eight playoff spot.

“The two points against Telford were huge and I believe this team can make the playoffs,” said Nottingham-born Kelsall. “Obviously we would have liked to have beaten Sheffield on that first night, but we are slowly catching the other teams above us – we just have to keep it going.

Leeds Chiefs' Andres Kostals and Richard Bentham, right, celebrate Lewis Houston's overtime winner against Tleford. Picture courtesy of Mark Ferriss.

“You just have to look at the results they’ve had recently, they’ve basically been playing away from home all year and then if you can beat a team like Telford – in Telford – then you can compete with anybody in this league.”

The deal to come to Leeds all happened quite quickly for Kelsall who, despite continuing to develop in his third year with the Panthers, felt he needed more ice time.

“We were approaching the deadline for this league and I decided that it was probably right to try and get some extra games in before the end of the season because it is only going to help me get better,” he added.

“So I spoke to Sammy and we both wanted exactly the same thing, I wanted to play and he had a spot available for me on the roster.

“I know him from down in Swindon when we played together there a couple of years ago, so I knew I could trust him as a coach and as a person. so that influenced the move quite a bit, I would say. It’s working really well so far.”

How many of the Chiefs’ 15 remaining games Kelsall dresses in remains to be seen and will be largely dependent on his Panthers’ bosses.

Tonight sees him back with the Panthers for the trip to Manchester Storm but it won’t become clear until nearer the weekend which Chiefs games he will play in.

The Chiefs are scheduled to play three in three nights, starting with a visit from Hull Pirates on Friday night before a home and away double-header against Milton Keynes Lightning.

The Panthers, currently fourth in the standings and nine points adrift of leaders Sheffield Steelers but with four games in hand, host Fife Flyers on Friday before welcoming another regular season title rival 48 hours later in the shape of Belfast Giants.

“They will make a decision on a game-by-game basis whether they feel like I’m going to play for Panthers or whether I’d be better coming here and playing for Leeds,” said Kelsall, who spent last season gaining invaluable top-flight experience when loaned out by the Panthers’ to EIHL rivals, Dundee Stars.

“Either way this week is going to be a tough schedule for me because I’ll be playing four in five as I’m in Manchester on Wednesday too – but, wherever I play, it’s great because all you want to do is play in as many games as possible.”