Leeds Knights 5 Bees IHC 2 – Dave Whistle praises ‘awesome’ Knights for opening night win

DAVE WHISTLE praised his Leeds Knights’ players ability to rebound from back-to-back defeats when they got their NIHL National league campaign off to a winning start on Saturday night at Elland Road.

By Phil Harrison
Sunday, 17th October 2021, 8:18 am
Updated Sunday, 17th October 2021, 9:50 am
TOP MAN: Leeds Knights' Adam Barnes enjoyed a man-of-the-match performance against Bees IHC registering a goal and an assist. Picture:

Andy Bourke/Podium Prints
TOP MAN: Leeds Knights' Adam Barnes enjoyed a man-of-the-match performance against Bees IHC registering a goal and an assist. Picture: Andy Bourke/Podium Prints

The Knights were good value for their 5-2 win against Bees IHC, the same team they opened their Autumn Cup account against with a 7-1 win at the same venue a month ago.

Despite falling behind early, the hosts went on to dominate, out-shooting Doug Sheppard’s side by 52-38 on the night.

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Sam Gospel, restored as starting goalie after being rested in Friday night’s Autumn Cup defeat at Sheffield Steeldogs, produced another towering performance, once again proving why he is so highly regarded around the league.

Whistle will have been pleased to see the scoring shared around all three forward lines, with Brandon Whistle, Matty Davies, Adam Barnes, Jordan Fisher and Kieran Brown all getting on the scoresheet.

“We came out flying, we did a good job when we didn’t have the puck, we took the right man at the right time, we put a lot of back pressure on their players,” said Whistle.

“And that’s what we had talked about prior to the game and they went out and did it. It was an awesome performance.

Leeds Knights' Jordan Fisher got his first goal of the season in the 5-2 win over Bees IHC Picture: Andy Bourke/Podium Prints

“Their goaltending had a good game tonight, both of them. They both made some really good saves and we had some good power play opportunities - we had the puck in their zone for a minute and a half one time and they stopped them all.

“So credit to them because they worked really hard. It’s a long bus ride to get up here, right, and we knew that which is why we started really well, got some good scoring chances off the bat, good puck control - overall it was a great night.”

Despite falling behind to a third-minute strike by Juha Lindgren, thereafter the Knights took control in front of a new record crowd of 1,125 and were 2-1 ahead by the end of the first through an ninth-minute leveller from Brandon Whistle – his 11th of the season – and a third of the campaign from centre Davies at 13.08.

The Knights ensured it was to be a positive start to the season with a dominant second period display which saw them plunder three further unanswered goals in a frenetic three-minute spell.

Leeds Knights' head coach Dave Whistle expects a tough start at Peterborough on Sunday evening. Picture: Andy Bourke/Podium Prints

Barnes, awarded man-of-the-match at the end of the night, made it 3-1 just after the halfway mark before Fisher opened his account for the season just two minutes later. Brown then made sure he stayed one ahead of Whistle for his season’s tally when he struck at 34.57.

Bees, who replaced the unfortunate Curtis Warburton in net with Adam Goss after the three-goal blast, rallied in the third, out-shooting their hosts 18-15, but still only able to find their way through Gospel just the once when Dominik Gabaj struck at 49.20.

The Knights head to Peterborough Phantoms on Sunday afternoon looking to avenge last Sunday’s 5-4 defeat at home to a Slava Koulikov team who will be looking to bounce back from an opening night 7-4 defeat in Basingstoke.

“It will be a tough night and the way they kind of play makes them tough to break down a little bit but, again, I’ve watched some of it back from last week and we’ve just got to make sure we chip the puck down low against them and really battle for the puck,” added Whistle.

“They are a team that you have got to finish checks on because otherwise they are going to get the puck more and create more scoring chances because once they get the puck, they are pretty good with it.”

Whistle said his team would probably have to soak up some intense pressure from the Phantoms in the opening minutes.

“We really just want to play defensive hockey at first, and if we get puck possession we want to go fast as we can, get it down low, chip it down behind their defenceman and cycle and cycle and cycle,” he explained.

“We’ve got some guys who can score, some guys with good shots on them, so if we get some scoring chances we should be able to capitalise on them.”