Hunger and desire give Leeds Chiefs timely momentum
GETTING out of bed on Monday morning may have been difficult for Leeds Chiefs’ Joe Coulter – but he insists he would happily go through the pain barrier every week if it means success on the ice.
The body may have been aching after two games in as many days at Basingstoke Bison but the fact those performances produced a maximum haul of four points made it all worthwhile.
Down to just 12 skaters after the departure of forwards James Archer, Radek Meidl and Brodie Jesson 24 hours before face-off in Hampshire, Coulter said the latest bout of adversity to hit the club only served to bring the remaining members of the roster closer together.
It clearly worked, new signing Lewis Houston firing home the winner in Sunday’s come-from-behind 3-2 win in overtime capping a memorable weekend.
There was no lack of motivation for Zajac’s team heading down to Hampshire on the Saturday, the reaction – via social media – being largely negative to the player exits, particularly those of Archer and Meidl, who were among the team’s leading scorers.
But, Coulter says, the team used the negativity to motivate them to go out and prove there were still players of the necessary quality required to compete at NIHL National level.
“With them guys leaving, the club took a lot of heat on social media,” said Coulter, who made the switch to the Chiefs in the summer after spending his entire career at Solway Sharks.
“People were saying that our season was over, that we were struggling and I think we used all of that as fire to drive us on even harder – it got us going.
“It seemed there were so many people doubting us, that we used it all as motivation because we wanted to prove to everybody that we could play hockey.
“There were opportunities to shine and every single guy grabbed it with both hands.”
The maximum points haul may not have been enough to lift the Chiefs off the bottom of the table but it closed the gap on the team immediately above them, Raiders IHC, to five points.
With Leeds also having three games in hand on their Essex-based rivals, it makes this Saturday’s meeting between the two in Coventry a pivotal encounter.
And the confidence gained from overcoming huge odds in Basingstoke has left 24-year-old forward Coulter confident of another four-point haul, with a third trip to Hull Pirates beckoning on Sunday.
“There’s still so much hockey to be played,” he added. “And while we are still looking to bring guys in, the core group that we’ve got is solid.
“We’ve got a young team, but we’re hungry, we’ve got that desire and last weekend we really discovered that will to win.
“And while it’s heartbreaking not to have got as many points as we feel we deserve, I feel we’ve now got that momentum.
“With the way we played last weekend, the way we executed our game-plan and the way Sammy has got us fired up, I believe that we are capable of getting another four points weekend. I can just feel it.
“And while waking up on Monday morning may have felt like we’d been hit by a train, it felt worth it.
“And that is what is going through our heads now – every Monday morning, we want to wake up like that – where you’re struggling to get out of bed, but know that it has been worth every bit of pain you’re feeling.”