Leeds Knights suffer frustration on the road after overtime defeat at Telford Tigers

THERE will have been no shortage of frustration on the Leeds Knights bench in Telford last night, but coach Dave Whistle insisted his players should take plenty of pride from their performance on one of NIHL National’s toughest assignments.

By Phil Harrison
Monday, 27th December 2021, 11:14 pm
Updated Monday, 27th December 2021, 11:22 pm
Brandon Whistle scored twice for Leeds Knights but it couldn't prevent a 4-3 defeat in overtime at Tleofrd Tigers  Picture: James Hardisty
Brandon Whistle scored twice for Leeds Knights but it couldn't prevent a 4-3 defeat in overtime at Tleofrd Tigers Picture: James Hardisty

The visitors ultimately went down to an overtime strike from Corey Goddison, but it only came after an impressive comeback by the Knights, who had fallen two behind just after the halfway mark during regulation.

Strikes from Kieran Brown and Brandon Whistle - his second of the night - had dragged Leeds level by the time the second interval buzzer sounded.

But controversial calls in the third period - Matty Davies was given 10 minutes early on for for abuse of official and Brown ejected for unsportsmanlike conduct inside the last 10 minutes - hampered Leeds’ attempts to pull off a first win of the campaign in Shropshire.

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Keiran Brown got on the board at Telford Tigers with a second-period power play goal, but was ejected from the game for unsportsmanlike conduct in the 53rd minute. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

“It was frustrating not to get both points but, overall, you’ve got to be pleased with taking a point off Telford,” said head coach Whistle.

“They are a really hard team to play against and it is a hard rink to go into and get anything, so it was good that we got a point at least.

“Some of those calls were a bit frustrating to be honest, but I thought we played real well from start to finish.

“We didn’t give up a lot of scoring chances which is something I’ve been looking for us to improve on lately.

Dave Whistle was proud of the performance in Telford from his Leeds Knights' players Picture: Bruce Rollinson

“They were mostly shots from the outside. Their goals were good goals in themselves, but at the same time we scored some good goals, too. It was an even game all around, really.”

Whistle said his team were also left to regret not taking advantage of a 40-second 5-on-3 power play early in the second period after Telford’s Thomas McKinnon and Goddison were both sent to the box.

“We needed to capitalise on that 5-on-3 when we had it,” added Whistle. “We had about 40 seconds on it, but we didn’t even get a shot on net as they got it down the ice twice - I think that really hurt us.”

The Knights went into the game without the influential Cole Shudra - called up by Sheffield Steelers for their Elite League clash at Nottingham Panthers - and talismanic captain Sam Zajac. Harry Gulliver was also unavailable, but there was a boost with the return of defenceman Ben Solder and centre Joe Coulter, both missing from the previous day’s win over Sheffield Steeldogs at Elland Road.

Whistle Jnr had given the visitors the perfect start when he gave them the lead with just 34 seconds on the clock, although the scores were level at the end of the first through Austin Mitchell-King’s 10th-minute reply.

Despite opportunities to get in front again, events took a turn for the worse for Leeds around the halfway mark when the hosts fired in two power play markers.

The first one came through Scott McKenzie at 27.34 - when Jordan Griffin was in the box on a hooking call - and then Finley Howells got on the board just under four minutes later when Bobby Streetly was called for the same offence as his fellow defenceman.

But the Knights were level within five minutes, Brown firing home at 34.45 on the power play before Whistle grabbed his second two minutes later.

Neither side could force the win in the subsequent 20 minutes, however, allowing Goodison to earn himself hero status for the hosts in overtime.

“We did a good job,” added Whistle. “We were able to keep it simple, we were willing to block shots, willing to chip it in and chip it out. It was about just playing smart and I was really proud of them for that tonight.”

With leaders Swindon Wildcats losing for the second time in as many days to Basingstoke Bison, the result in Telford sees the Tigers close the gap to four points, on the same points as Milton Keynes Lightning who beat Peterborough Phantoms 5-3. Leeds remain in fifth, six points further back from Telford and the Lightning and are next in action on New Year’s Eve when they travel to South Yorkshire to take on Sheffield Steeldogs (2pm face-off).