Leeds Knights: Ambitious goalie Harrison Walker playing for keeps with two-time NIHL National champions

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HISTORY will show that Leeds Knights clinched their second successive NIHL National league title with a 6-3 win at home against Bees.

There are, of course, many different moments that go into making any campaign - whether it be a good or a bad outcome.

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One such ‘moment’ came the previous weekend to that win at Elland Road Ice Arena when the Knights faced three tough encounters in as many days - a Friday night trip to Swindon Wildcats followed by a double-header against Hull Seahawks.

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STICKING AROUND: Leeds Knights' netminder, Harrison Walker has signed up for a third season with the NIHL National champions. Picture:  Aaron Badkin/Knights MediaSTICKING AROUND: Leeds Knights' netminder, Harrison Walker has signed up for a third season with the NIHL National champions. Picture:  Aaron Badkin/Knights Media
STICKING AROUND: Leeds Knights' netminder, Harrison Walker has signed up for a third season with the NIHL National champions. Picture: Aaron Badkin/Knights Media

Shortly before the trip to Wiltshire, Knights’ head coach Ryan Aldridge discovered that first-choice netminder Sam Gospel was unavailable due to the birth of his child.

It was the moment back-up Harrison Walker had been waiting for. He seized it with both hands - quite literally.

Just over 72 hours later and the Knights had emerged from a daunting weekend with six points knowing that a win at closest rivals Milton Keynes Lightning the following Saturday would see them retain their regular season crown.

As it turned out, they would have to wait another 24 hours before lifting the league trophy in front of their own fans.

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BACK FOR MORE: Harrison Walker has signed up for another season with Leeds Knights. Picture: Aaron Badkin/Knights Media.BACK FOR MORE: Harrison Walker has signed up for another season with Leeds Knights. Picture: Aaron Badkin/Knights Media.
BACK FOR MORE: Harrison Walker has signed up for another season with Leeds Knights. Picture: Aaron Badkin/Knights Media.

Sam Gospel, Kieran Brown, Matt Haywood, Mac Howlett, Jordan Buesa - those are the names that garnered most of the headlines throughout the 2023-24 season. But every single player on Aldridge’s roster had a role to play

Walker’s biggest contribution came on that weekend of March 8-10 and is partly why it should come as no surprise that the 22-year-old Bradford-born goalie is back for a third full season with the Knights.

At some point Walker will step out of the shadow of goalie partner Sam Gospel. Understandably he has ambitions to be a starter in the second tier himself and was the reason why he explored options to go elsewhere earlier this summer - with the full knowledge and support of Aldridge.

But he will remain in West Yorkshire. At least for one more season.

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CHAMOPIONS: Leeds Knights celebrate their second successive NIHL National regular season league title. Picture: Knights Media.CHAMOPIONS: Leeds Knights celebrate their second successive NIHL National regular season league title. Picture: Knights Media.
CHAMOPIONS: Leeds Knights celebrate their second successive NIHL National regular season league title. Picture: Knights Media.

“I’m pleased to get the deal done and over the line,” said Walker. “It’s been a long summer but it has all worked out in the end.

“I feel like last year was massive for me, I feel like I grew a lot, in terms of confidence, but then that was the same for the whole team.

“Personally, it was a big step forward for me. I explored some options and I felt like I needed to have a look and see what was out there. Ultimately, the goal for me is to be a starter at this level.”

Aldridge, now planning for a third straight league title in as many years, was more than happy to hold on to the former Bradford Bulldogs and Widnes Wild goalie.

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“I understood as a coach that he wanted to look at other opportunities with a view to getting a start at this level - 100 per cent,” said Aldridge. “And we told him that the door would always be open to him.

“For me, it’s very much the other teams’ loss and our gain and I believe this has worked out best for all of us.

“We know in Harrison that we are getting a really good goalie, who last season proved himself at this level.”