Sunday night’s 5-1 defeat to a well-drilled, solid Basingstoke Bison team was a stark contrast to the excitement that had filled the Elland Road rink the previous night when the Knights staged a rousing second period fightback from 4-1 down before taking the extra point on a shoot-out against Peterborough Phantoms.
There was no shortage of effort from the hosts against Ashley Tait’s team 24 hours later but, for whatever reason, it was all a bit flat, one positive coming late on when Cole Shudra ensured that his team maintained their season-long record of avoiding being shutout in a game when he fired into Jordan Lawday’s top left-hand corner with just over a minute remaining.
By then, the damage had been done, a three-game winning streak ended, but the Knights appear a shoo-in for the post-season when, given the obvious talent at their disposal, they will and should fancy their chances against anyone.
In a similar way to the night before against Peterborough, Leeds found themselves up against it when they went behind to an early goal, George Norcliffe allowed time and space down the left before squaring the puck to Alex Sampford who hit a perfect shot to beat Gospel from the top of the right circle with 6.34 on the board.
Unlike the night before, the next goal came at the same end, the Knights paying the price for a cross-checking call on Shudra, when Alex Roberts’s effort from just inside the blue line took a deflection in front of net and past Gospel at 15.25.
Shudra - already denied by Lawday after a neat one-two with Harry Gulliver - was again denied when cleverly stealing the puck inside the right circle and driving to the net, with Lawday also keeping out the Manchester Storm forward shortly after at his near post.
The killer blow came just 50 seconds into the second period.
A promising move between Kieran Brown and Adam Barnes broke down, allowing Bison to break down the other end on a three-on-one, Adam Harding switching the play from right to left to allow Norcliffe to fire past Gospel.
Lawday’s pads were called into action a couple of times - mainly from the endeavours of the tireless Brown - but Grade A chances were hard to come by for Leeds, their night getting worse just after the halfway mark when some untidy play saw the puck fall kindly to Roberts who ripped one past Gospel to make it 4-0 at 30.16.
Gospel then kept his team in the game - just - when pulling off a spectacular triple save in the 35th minute, somehow stopping two rebounds after initially denying Roberts.
But it proved in vain when the first goal in the fifth period went against him again, Bison taking just 28 seconds to make the most of a tripping call on Ross Kennedy, with Zack Milton allowed time and space in front to place his effort to the right of Gospel from 10 yards out at 42.04.
Brown forced a couple of further saves from Lawday and although Leeds huffed and puffed, they just couldn’t find a way to get a foothold, Shudra’s well-executed strike at 58.57 at least salvaging some pride.
On Saturday, Peterborough seemed well in control at the halfway mark, Shudra having cancelled out Leo Markey’s third-minute opener before second-period strikes Ales Padelek, Callum Buglass and Duncan Speirs put Slava Koulikov’s team into a commanding lead.
But a remarkable 66 seconds of hockey saw the Knights pull level, Brown registering his 50th goal of the season on the power play at 32.16 before Jordan Fisher and then Adam Barnes at 33.22 had the home crowd on their feet.
Remarkably after a frenetic middle period, no further goals came, either in the third or overtime.
The extra point was secured thanks to Brown and Gulliver scoring in the subsequent shoot-out, while Gospel kept out all of Peterborough’s efforts.
Peterborough rebounded positively last night when they beat Milton Keynes 7-3.