A 5-4 defeat in overtime at least gave Leeds their first point of the post-season, one that could ultimately prove vital in their quest to make the Final Four Weekend in Coventry. if they lose at Telford Tigers on Sunday evening, however, it will count for nothing.
With Milton Keynes Lightning maintaining their 100 per cent record with a 5-2 win at home to Telford, the Knights must now hope Lewis Clifford’s team can repeat that result when those two teams meet again next Sunday in Shropshire. It would also help the Knights’ cause if the Lightning beat Bees, at least once. Preferably this weekend.
Of course for all of the above to matter one iota, Leeds do now have to win all three of their remaining games. No easy task when two of them are against the recently-crowned league champions Telford.
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They will head down to Shropshire on Sunday aware they failed to make their superiority count on home ice against a dogged Bees team, that frustrated them at every turn, from an outstanding performance in net by Adam Goss, to the man-marking job Josh Martin tried to carry out for most of the game on Kieran Brown.
“It’s just one of those games,” said Knights’ head coach Aldridge afterwards. “It’s tough to come away without the win after a game like that and it’s very frustrating. We go down the ice with a 3-on-1 and hit the post and then they go down the other way on a breakaway and score the winner.
“I’ve got to probably bite my tongue on some of the decisions that were made tonight but it’s the level we’re at, the league we’re in and we’ve just got to roll with it.
“We’re not dead and buried yet but it’s going to be a very tough ask to reach Coventry from here.”
It was the Bees that struck first, getting the go-ahead goal through Adam Rosbottom on a delayed penalty call at 2.44.
Thereafter it was a case of just concentrating on the other end of the ice as the Knight laid siege to the Bees’ zone, out-shooting the visitors 17-4 but going in at the break with nothing to show for their efforts, Jordan Fisher, Matty Davies and Brown going close to equalising, while the industrious pair of Lewis Baldwin and Ethan Hehir both had ‘goals’ waved off because the net came of its moorings.
It was a more even affair in the second, the game opening up more to allow the Bees to at least keep Sam Gospel interested in proceedings, the Leeds netminder having to be alert to deny Ryan Webb in quick succession from close range.
Brown - who came into the game without a post-season point - began to find his range and pinged one off the inside of Goss’s left-hand post from the top of the right circle, before the Bees stopper denied Baldwin from in front.
A tripping call on Cole Shudra proved to critical, though, Gospel keeping out a shot from Juha Lindgren but was powerless to prevent Rosbottom from shoving home the rebound at 25.48.
It was becoming a desperate situation for the home team, but they were able to turn the game around in the second half of the middle period, enough so that they went in ahead 3-2.
Their fourth power play opportunity of the night finally paid off when, after a goalmouth scramble, the puck found Adam Barnes, who quickly slid it across the crease to an unmarked Sam Zajac who swept into an empty net at 31.21.
Just over three minutes later, the Knights were level, this time shorthanded with Jordan Griffin and Davies in the box over an altercation over near the officials box.
Brown evaded the attentions of Martin for long enough to break free down centre ice before firing through the defenceman in front of him and through Goss’s legs at 34.37.
An elbowing call on Brown presented Bees with yet another power play opportunity but, once again, the Knights came up trumps while shorthanded, Shudra cleverly dispossessing a Bees defender before firing past Goss to give the Knights the lead at 38.33.
But within three minutes of the third period starting, the game was once again turned on its head, the Bees levelling through Lindgren on the powerplay at 41.54 with one that squirmed through Gospel before Webb fired in off the underside of the bar from close range just 24 seconds later.
It briefly knocked the home team sideways but they were soon back camped in the Bees zone again, grabbing their second power play marker of the evening when Shudra’s fierce shot from centre ice could only see Goss parry the puck asfar as Davies in the left circle who was left with a simple finish to make it 4-4 at 50.09.
Davies was denied giving his team the lead when he saw a second effort of the night cannon off the upright, while Leeds had a third ‘goal’ waved off - Zajac firing home into an empty net - after the officials called for goalie interference.
It led to five minutes of 3-on-3 overtime, one Leeds looked like they would edge when they had a 3-on-1 with Zajac, Barnes and Brown.
Zajac fed Brown, who slid it back across to the advancing Barnes but his effort hit Goss’s left-hand post and with all three Knights players stranded around the Bees goalline, the puck was thrown up ice with Alan Lack winning the foot race before showing great poise to squeeze the puck through Gospel’s legs, the momentum carrying it over line just before Barnes could retrieve it.
To watch the Knights take on Telford tonight via live stream go HERE