Leeds Knights coach Ryan Aldridge on players paying the price to beat Sheffield Steeldogs and fresh injury concerns for Raiders IHC trip
RYAN ALDRIDGE says his Leeds Knights players ‘paid the price’ after a sensational last-minute victory over Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Steeldogs.
The 4-3 win - courtesy of a Cole Shudra strike with just seven seconds remaining - snapped a three-game losing streak and moved the Knights back up to fifth in the NIHL National standings ahead of Saturday night’s trip to Raiders.
But Aldridge admitted his team may have to make the long trip to Romford light on bodies after picking up a few injuries in a pulsating but gruelling encounter against the Steeldogs.
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“I thought it was a great team performance tonight,” said Aldridge. “Everybody on the team paid the price for the win and it was a real team effort from start to finish.
“After that start and all the goals I looked up at the scoreboard there and thought ‘this is going to be interesting’ - but the game obviously settled down after that and it was end-to-end and a very tight game.”
Aldridge was impressed with the way his players struck back to grab both points the way they did, particularly after seeing Jason Hewitt score an equaliser to make it 3-3 with less than two minutes remaining.
“It’s always a tough one when you’re winning by one or two goals because you want to make sure you don’t make any mistakes but you also don’t want to stop playing the way you are playing,” he added.
“And so we talked about not making any drop passes, or any blind passes and to keep ourselves going forward.
“And, yeah, when they pulled the goalie, I think we just got caught out a little bit, a young team running around a little bit, but obviously the reaction from us then was pretty amazing.
“This is a talented hockey team here, playing with a little bit of structure, now, hopefully, and I hope we can build on it every week and go on from there.”
It was an often electrifying derby encounter at Elland Road in which players from both sides put their bodies on the line.
As a result, Aldridge will see this morning how many of his bodies he will be without. Captain Sam Zajac played little part after the first period, while Jordan Fisher was absent for most of the third.
Brandon Whistle - scorer of the first goal - was also seen to limp off towards the end of the game. Jordan Griffin was absent after picking up an injury last weekend in the defeat to Basingstoke Bison.
It may mean more ice time for defenceman Bobby Streetly who hardly featured against the Steeldogs, as the Knights look to get the better of Raiders for the first time in the league this season, Sean Easton’s team winning all three previous encounters.
“Three games in three nights is tough,” said Aldridge. “The game against Steeldogs was tough - we had a lot of penalty kills, so that tired guys out, we had a lot of power plays, that also tired guys out.
“And we picked up a few injuries, so we might be a little bit short tomorrow night (Saturday). It’s a long road trip, a tough ask but we’ll obviously go in there with a mindset of winning.”