Basingstoke Bison v Leeds Chiefs - Underdog role no issue for Sam Zajac ahead of tough double-header

HUGE UNDERDOGS and short on bodies they may be but Leeds Chiefs still believe they retain enough quality to take something from their double-header with Basingstoke Bison this weekend.

By Phil Harrison
Saturday, 14th December 2019, 8:26 am
Sam Zajac, centre, is pleased to have Andres Kopstals back in the starting line-up. Picture courtesy of Tony Sargent.
Sam Zajac, centre, is pleased to have Andres Kopstals back in the starting line-up. Picture courtesy of Tony Sargent.

Tonight will be the first-ever meeting between the two clubs, with Ashley Tait’s team enjoying a positive start to the inaugural NIHL National season which has left them fourth in the standings.

Among their scalps this season are two wins over current leaders Telford Tigers, meaning player-coach Zajac is fully aware of the tough task that awaits his team in Hampshire.

“It’s going to be the hardest weekend of the season so far for us,” warned Zajac. “It’s a very tough building to go into as they are a very good home team on home ice.

“They have good depth, they roll all their lines and they can suffocate teams. We need to be smart in how we approach it, we need to play low-risk hockey and make sure we compete for every puck.

“When you look through our line-up, yes we are short, very short this weekend, but there is no lack of quality in our line-up.

“It is maybe going to be a run-and-gun effort to take some points from the two games but we’ve definitely got the players capable of doing it.”

The Chiefs take on the Bison with just 12 skaters after the departure of forwards James Archer, Radek Meidl and Brodie Jesson yesterday.

LATE CALL: Leeds Chiefs defenceman Steve Duncombe. Picture courtesy of Steve Brodie.

But, buoyed by the arrival of winger Lewis Houston and return from injury of import Andres Kopstals, the Chiefs are also boosted by the availability of young defenceman Tyler Nixon, released by parent club Sutton Sting.

Veteran D-man Steve Duncombe will travel with the team but a decision on his fitness will be made as late as possible before face-off.

“The guys know it is a big chunk of offence gone and they know we are looking to those who maybe haven’t chipped in with as many goals to maybe now come to the fore,” added Zajac. “Basingstoke are going to try and grind us down over the weekend but we’ve got to conserve energy where we can and be clinical and capitalise on any scoring chances we get.”

NEW ADDITION: Teenage forward Lewis Houston has made the step up to Leeds Chiefs from Solway Sharks. Picture courtesy of Colin Lawson.