Leeds Knights 7 Bees IHC 1: Knights offer early indication of their forward firepower
A LOT has been made of the potential firepower at the disposal of Leeds Knights this season - on opening night at Elland Road, they gave an indication of how prolific they could be in the coming months.
As first nights go - not counting the four pre-season games to have gone before - it was pretty near perfect for Dave Whistle’s team. The only thing that was missing from the Knights’ first outing in the NIHL Autumn Cup was a shutout for goaltender Sam Gospel. But that would just be greedy, wouldn’t it?
The game was effectively over as a contest within the first 25 minutes, the Knights jumping on a ragged Bees IHC team whose preparations for the encounter had been hampered by a delayed journey up the M1 which saw them arrive just before 6.30pm, leading to face-off being put back by around 40 minutes.
And there was to be no mercy from the hosts, who once they went ahead in the ninth minute through the impressive Cole Shudra, never gave up control, even though Gospel again had to be on song, turning away all but one of the 47 shots recorded on his net.
Understandably, head coach Whistle was pleased with the majority of his team’s game, although he remains frustrated at how many shots are getting through on Gospel - something he will target further work on in practice later this week ahead of Friday night’s trip to Swindon Wildcats.
“You can’t take anything away from how we played. I felt we played very well,” said Whistle. “As first night’s go, it couldn’t really have gone any better.
“We created plenty of offence which was great. We didn’t pass it four or five times before a shot, either, we had it a couple of times and then ‘bang’ and a shot, ‘bang’ and a shot - that’s how you score more.
“You’re not going to always score by making an unbelievably beautiful play every time and we said to a couple of the guys before that they need to start shooting more, that when it gets on their stick and they’re in a shooting position, just let it go.
“They did and, as a result, we scored some good goals.
“We are getting better still with each game but, again, we still gave up way too many shots on our net.
“So we’re just going to have to keep working on that - Sammy (Gospel) had another great game for us, but he isn’t going to save everything, every single night.”
After Shudra opened the home team’s account, it was the turn of defenceman Bobby Streetly to double the advantage at 17.17, firing through traffic from the blue line to add his first goal of the season to the helper he got on the first goal.
Before the first break, it was 3-0, Shudra doubling his tally at 19.13 thanks to good work by linemates Brandon Whistle and centre Matty Davies.
Even though Bees were able to catch their breath shortly afterwards, there was to be no let-up, the game effectively ended as a contest at 24.39 when Lewis Houston, Adam Barnes and Kieran Brown combined to give the latter his first goal of the night.
There weren’t too many power play opportunities for either side but, of the few they had, the Knights took advantage on one occasion, Whistle the beneficiary from Shudra and Davies to make it 5-0 on the man advantage at 38.08.
Just 35 seconds into the third and the Bees probably wished they hadn’t made it through the traffic congestion at all, Shudra enabling Whistle to grab his second of the night for a 6-0 lead.
The one disappointment on the night for the hosts came with 47 minutes gone, when Michael Power ended Gospel’s deserved shutout, although less than two minutes had elapsed before Brown struck for his second of the night, an unassisted effort at 48.50 to restore the healthy six-goal lead.
The final 10 minutes were disrupted by a couple of fights - Streetly earning his ‘Gordie Howe hat-trick’ before Ross Kennedy got in on the act shortly after.
But the scuffles matter little, the Knights having proved that, on their night, they could be a potent match for anyone in NIHL National this season.