Leeds Knights: The players coach Ryan Aldridge called ‘unbelievable’ after wins over Swindon Wildcats

LEEDS KNIGHTS coach Ryan Aldridge was understandably pleased with his players after they gave their hopes of a top-two finish in NIHL National a timely shot in the arm with two wins over the team currently sat in second place, Swindon Wildcats.

By Phil Harrison
Wednesday, 2nd March 2022, 4:45 pm

Saturday saw the Knights make the long road trip to Wiltshire and come away with the two points in a 5-4 win after strikes from Cole Shudra and Archie Hazeldine saw them prevail in a shootout.

On Sunday, there was even more excitement when the Knights raced into a 6-1 lead by the halfway mark, were pegged back to 6-4 and then 7-5 before Harry Gulliver scored an empty-netter to make the game safe with 70 seconds remaining.

Around 1,800 fans packed into the Elland Road rink and saw a number of impressive performances from the hosts, with head coach Aldridge - now in place until the end of the current season - moved to sing the praises of certain individuals.

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One of those was forward Ethan Hehir who, with veteran centre Matty Davies out injured following a collision with the boards in Swindon the night before, was asked to step up and play in-between wingers Kieran Brown and Adam Barnes on the first line.

The 20-year-old former GB Under-18 and Under-20 international certainly rose to the occasion, providing plenty of energy between the sharp-shooters either side of him, picking up three assists along the way.

“He was unbelievable for us, both on Saturday night and unbelievable again here, too,” said a delighted Aldridge after the win on home ice. “He really stepped up when he was asked to and took the challenge on.”]

Elsewhere, Ross Kennedy ended up having to go to hospital for stitches when he was forced to leave the ice when he took a puck to the face late in the third period. He picked up an assist on Adam Barnes’ second goal, having already registered his second goal of the season to equalise in Swindon the night before.

Leeds Knights players on the bench during a break in play in Sunday's 8-5 win against Swindon Wildcats. Picture courtesy of Oliver Portamento.

But it was his all-round energetic display that pleased Aldridge the most and his willingness to put his body on the line, particularly when giving away such a significant height and weight advantage to most of the Swindon players he was up against.

“Ross took a nasty one to the face, cut his top lip. It’s pretty bad but I think he’ll be alright,” added Aldridge. “He was another one who had an unbelievable weekend for us. That’s the best weekend he’s had since I first came here, he really stepped up.”

Ethan Hehir excelled as first line centre for Leeds Knights between Kieran Brown and Adam Barnes on Sunday night in the 8-5 win over Swindon Wildcats Picture: Bruce Rollinson
Ross Kennedy played his best weekend under Ryan Aldridge, said the head coach, as Leeds Knights twice came out on top in their weekend double-header against Swindon Wildcats Picture: Bruce Rollinson