Leeds Chiefs coach Sam Zajac happy with his options ahead of derby date at Hull Pirates
Gospel missed last Sunday’s 6-3 defeat at home to Sheffield Steeldogs after aggravating an injury he had been carrying for a couple of weeks.
He trained on the ice with the team in Blackburn on Wednesday night, but Zajac says it will be a game-day decision on whether he starts between the pipes for the second NIHL National visit of the season to East Yorkshire.
“He’s obviously a big part of our team and, to be honest, has probably been the player of the season for us so far – I think everyone would agree with that.
“But, if he doesn’t make it we’re more than confident of going with Miles Kinney instead.
“He’s played two big games for us and he has shown comfortably that he is more than capable of stepping up.”
One player who is certain to feature is new arrival Brodie Jesson, the 19-year-old forward who debuted for the Chiefs in the 5-3 defeat at his former club Telford Tigers last Saturday.
Having spent his formative years in Shropshire, he switched to Milton Keynes in the summer but, after just seven games, was released by the club.
Zajac monitored developments and, once Andrew Hirst informed him of his intention to leave 10 days ago, he moved quickly to bring in immediate cover in the shape of Jesson.
The Leeds boss believes he is getting a highly-motivated player who may want to prove a point that he belongs in the UK game’s second-tier.
“Once he became available he was firmly on our radar,” added Zajac. “We were all really impressed with him, he brought a lot to both games and scored against Sheffield and was probably one of our better players that night to be honest.
“He’s a young guy who has got a lot of hockey ahead of him and he’s the kind of guy who we kind of help mould into the kind of player that we need.
“We’re hoping to get a really highly-motivated Brodie and he has already showed that. He’s really looking to kick on and be successful and find a home too, so we hopefully can provide that for him.”
Despite what appears a tough weekend at first glance, Zajac is confident that, despite a below-par performance against Sheffield last Sunday, his team can compete with both Hull and leaders Swindon Wildcats tomorrow night in Widnes.
“We’ve had this weekend already this season, albeit the other way round, and it was one of our best weekends in terms of performances,” he said Zajac, whose team were edged out 4-3 at Swindon on October 19 before suffering a 5-4 overtime defeat in Hull the following day.
“But we’re the kind of team who raise our game to who we’re playing and these are two really good teams, so I’m really optimistic.”