Leeds Knights: Ben Solder targets best of both worlds in two-way deal with EIHL’s Manchester Storm
The Chelmsford-born defenceman will split his time during the 2021-22 season between Elland Road and parent club Manchester Storm, for whom he impressed so greatly in the Elite League’s behind-closed-doors tournament back in April.
Storm coach Ryan Finnerty clearly liked what he saw after moving to sign Solder up to remain with the Altrincham-based team for the coming season, although time spent across the Pennines in Leeds should benefit both organisations.
Knights’ head coach Dave Whistle will get a young player eager to continue his development, something which he will be able to do by ensuring he earns plenty of ice time in the second tier, while the 20-year-old will continue to train and play – when required at Manchester, continuing his exposure to a higher level of hockey.
It was a desire to develop his game and gain valuable ice time that first prompted the young, ambitious Solder to head to North America at the tender age of 13, attending the Ontario Hockey Academy, an establishment that combined a full-on hockey programme with his education.
Solder remained there for four years before continuing his career with Islanders HC in the United States Premier Hockey League, a move which was going well until the continuing pandemic brought about an early end to the 2020-21 campaign, his second year with the Massachusetts-based team.
That brought Solder back home to the UK where, after impressing with Raiders IHC in the Spring Cup, he found himself picked up by Storm coach Finnerty in the Brit-Draft that preceded the Elite Series.
“Going to Leeds will only be good for my development,” said Solder. “If I was just going to Manchester and sitting on the bench all the time, whether it’s good training or not, it’s still about getting that game time that you need.
“So this is the best move for my own career and it is about getting as much development as I possibly can under Dave Whistle and, all being well, I can be getting lots of ice time there which is hard to find in England most of the time, particularly for a young English player.”
There will be a few familiar faces to welcome Solder to the Knights’ locker room, the blue liner having come through the England and GB junior ranks alongside forward Kieran Brown, while winger Adam Barnes crossed paths with him for a couple of seasons in Ontario.
Fellow defenceman Jordan Griffin has played alongside Solder for GB juniors and, looking down the Knights’ roster, the youngster is backing Leeds to be among the front-runners for honours in NIHL National.
“I’m confident that we’re going to be really strong,” added Solder. “There are a lot of good, young guys at Leeds who all want to improve and not just stay at the same level.
“I feel like it will be good to train with all those guys too because everyone will be trying to push each other to get better and I think we’ll get on pretty well.
“English hockey is a small world and you all kind of know each other or know of each other which makes it pretty easy to get on with people.”