Hurting Leeds Chiefs urged to bounce back after hitting ‘lowest point’

SAM ZAJAC has challenged his Leeds Chiefs’ players to pick themselves up from their “lowest point” in order to give themselves a chance of salvaging their debut season.

Wednesday, 11th December 2019, 11:06 am
ON TARGET: Radek Meidl scored in the second period against Peterborough Phantoms, but it was to no avail as Leeds Chiefs sunk to their heaviest defeat of the season so far, as they remain rooted to the foot of the table.

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Saturday night’s 9-2 humbling left the Chiefs’ player-coach feeling “embarrassed” and “humiliated” as a fifth straight defeat left his team pinned to the bottom of the NIHL National table ahead of next weekend’s double-header in Hampshire against Basingstoke Bison.

In much the same way that they capitulated in the first period of their 6-2 defeat at Hull Pirates last month, the Chiefs were out of the game in Peterborough with barely 12 minutes on the clock when they found themselves 4-0 down.

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TOUGH NIGHT: Sam Gospel faced 51 shots in the 9-2 defeat against Peterborough Phantoms. Picture courtesy of Steve Brodie.

Try as they might, there was to be no way back for the West Yorkshire club who had gone into the encounter short on bodies with injury robbing them of defencemen Bobby Streetly and Steve Duncombe as well as import forward Andres Kopstals.

But a frustrated Zajac, who has still yet to lead his team out for a game at their long-awaited Elland Road rink, said there was little time for him and his players to feel sorry for themselves.

“We were chasing shadows all night and we were two steps off them all game,” said Zajac.

“They were stronger than us, they dominated the puck and we couldn’t get it off them – it looked like a scrimmage for them at times.

FRUSTRATION: Leeds Chiefs' player-coach, Sam Zajac. Picture courtesy of Steve Brodie.

“Every time they attacked they looked like scoring, there were uncharacteristic mistakes, from guys who have been solid all year.”

“We looked toothless going forward and it says a lot when your best player, the one who got man of the match was our goalie. We gave him no support and there is only so much he can do.

“It was a humbling defeat to be honest and it’s the lowest point that we’ve had on the ice by far.”

Will Weldon got the ball rolling for Slava Koulikov’s side when he found a way past man-of-the-match Sam Gospel with just 32 seconds on the clock.

The lead was doubled when, with James Archer in the penalty box on a slashing call, Jarvis Hunt made resulting power play count at 4.29.

Just over 10 minutes in and it was 3-0 when Hunt plundered his second before, just over two minutes later, the agony was increased further for the Chiefs when Thomas Norton fired home.

Archer redeemed himself when he got the Chiefs on the board at 15.31 and there was a relative period of calm before the Phantoms restored their four-goal cushion through Ales Padelek at 27.24.

Again the Chiefs cut the deficit, this time through Radek Meidl on a feed from Archer, but any hope of a comeback was quickly dented when Martins Susters pounced to make it 6-2 at 36.36.

Hunt sealed his hat-trick with a second power play marker at 43.55, Norton grabbing his second four minutes later before Padelek doubled his tally at 51.32 to complete the rout.

“We were soft, very soft and I hope everyone else was as embarrassed and as humiliated as I felt,” added Zajac. “It was the lowest I’d seen the room afterwards, there were a lot of disappointed guys and it was the lowest point for us as a group.

“But we can’t feel sorry for ourselves – nobody else is going to feel sorry for us. We can’t have a self-pity party – the only way we’re going to get out of this is to knuckle down and work our way out of it.”