Leeds Chiefs planning to hold back ‘offensive punch’ of Raiders IHC

THROUGHOUT the early part of this inaugural NIHL National season, Leeds Chiefs have been the team generally regarded as the ‘unknown quantity’.

Saturday, 12th October 2019, 12:00 am
Updated Saturday, 12th October 2019, 7:01 pm
Leeds player-coach Sam Zajac (No 4) in action in last week's 4-2 defeat to Peterborough. Picture: David Lowndes

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Their roster may be stacked with familiar names both young and old but, given their newcomer status, teams have had relatively little idea as to how Sam Zajac’s team will come at them.

Raiders IHC head coach, Sean Easton. Picture courtesy of John Scott.

With each passing week, that ‘surprise’ element will diminish as each team comes face to face with their nine rivals, which in turn brings greater access to more video footage to further aid scouting.

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Tomorrow (5.15pm) sees the Chiefs given a taste of their own medicine, so to speak, coming up against something of an ‘unknown’ themselves in the shape of Raiders IHC, based in Romford.

The Essex team – who travel to Basingstoke Bison tonight before welcoming Leeds to their Sapphire Ice and Leisure Centre rink just under 24 hours later – head into the weekend on an understandable high.

Sean Easton’s team made their league rivals sit up and take notice last time out, rising to fourth in the early-season standings on the back of a 2-1 win at Hull Pirates last Saturday before heading home to pull off an equally-impressive 5-4 triumph against third-placed Swindon Wildcats.

With tomorrow’s hosts boasting the youngest roster in the division, Chiefs’ player-coach Zajac is expecting his winless team to be put to the test from the off.

“You could say we couldn’t have picked a better time to play them after last weekend!” joked Zajac, whose team hope to end their five-game losing streak tomorrow. “They are going to be on such a high after those two great results last weekend.

“No disrespect to them, but I don’t think they were two results many guys around the league will have seen coming.

“But that is just testament to the team that Sean (Easton) has put together down there.

“With them being on that side of London I think they almost have the pick of the players from the area with them being the highest-placed team there.”

Zajac, who is hoping to add at least one new face to his roster before Sunday, admitted his team would be going in with limited scouting and knowledge of their hosts, but stressed it would be the same for both sides.

“I’ve only played against them once or twice, so there are a lot of guys we’re not familiar with,” he added. “But we’ve been doing a lot of research this week, speaking to other coaches around the league and trying to watch as much video as we can.

“They are definitely going to be a bit of an unknown quantity, but we will be for them too.

“They seem to be a pretty free-flowing, offensive team, they’ve scored a lot of goals so far – I think they put eight past Basingstoke – so they’ve definitely got an offensive punch.

“They are a very young team, so they’re definitely going to play with a lot of energy and there will probably be a feeling out process initially.

“But we need to concentrate and worry about what we’re doing, not so much about them.”