Leeds Knights coach Dave Whistle aware of threat posed by NIHL National rivals Raiders IHC

LEEDS KNIGHTS have reached double figures in a game just the once this season - but Dave Whistle does not expect a repeat show against Raiders IHC at Elland Road on Saturday night.

By Phil Harrison
Saturday, 30th October 2021, 10:29 am
AWARENESS: Dave Whistle, head coach of Leeds Knights Picture: James Hardisty
AWARENESS: Dave Whistle, head coach of Leeds Knights Picture: James Hardisty

A 10-4 win on home ice back on October 3 came when the Knights were in full flow and on their way to posting a six-game winning start to the season in the Autumn Cup.

But for the first 25 minutes or so of that meeting, Knights’ head coach Whistle knew his team were being matched blow-for-blow by Sean Easton’s team.

A 28th-minute powerplay goal by Erik Patiak saw the Raiders pull level after having gone 4-2 down early in the second period. But, within 30 seconds, the Knights were ahead again through Adam Barnes and, four minutes later, they were two clear through a Kieran Brown strike.

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Cole Shudra is not likely to be back in action until mid-December at the earliest. Picture: Andy Bourke/Podium Prints

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Momentum was back with home team and they maintained their offensive push in the third with four further goals to run out convincing winners.

The Raiders arrive in Leeds for a second time this season on the back of a 5-1 defeat to Bees IHC on Friday night, the first of a three-game weekend which culminates on home ice against Peterborough Phantoms on Sunday.

They have enjoyed two regular season wins so far, both by a single goal, at home to Basingstoke Bison and on the road at Peterborough last Sunday.

JUST IN: Harry Gulliver, centre, has joined Leeds Knights on a two-way deal from Manchester Storm. Picture: Mark Ferriss/EIHL.

“It was 4-4 in that last game we had with them here, but if those next two goals had gone their way instead of ours, we could have easily found ourselves on the end of a loss,” said Whistle.

“They are a talented team who, if you mess up in your own zone, are quick enough to make you pay. They were pretty much on a par with us goal for goal until the third period when we were able to take over. So we’ve got to be careful, especially with us not having as much firepower as when we played them the last time, with Cole (Shudra) and Matty Davies being out.”

While key pieces in the shape of Shudra and Davies are missing, Knights will be boosted by having Manchester Storm forward Harry Gulliver for the weekend, the 22-year-old winger having agreed to a two-way deal between the two clubs.

Whistle said Gulliver arrives with several positive recommendations, including that of Knights’ team owner Steve Nell, who saw the youngster blossom through his Swindon-based Okanagan Hockey Academy programme between 2012-16.

Leeds Knights' forward Mack Stewart, left, could be joined by former Belfast Giants Juniors' team-mate Carter Hamill this weekend. Picture: Linnea Rheborg/Getty Images

“Steve knows a lot about him and has a good handle on him,” said Whistle. “And I’ve also spoken to somebody else whose opinion I trust and who has told me Harry is a very good player, strong, a good skater and a pretty big guy.

“So I’m looking forward to throwing him in there on Saturday and he will be a welcome addition. He’s played most of the year with Manchester, so he’s got some good experience, too.”

Whistle is also hoping to have former Belfast Giants Juniors centre Carter Hamill on the ice tonight, the 17-year-old having trained with the Knights at Elland Road this week.

Hamill is a former team-mate of Knights’ forward Mack Stewart from their time in Northern Ireland before moving to SNL outfit Dundee Comets in the summer.

Stewart, also 17, has impressed in his handful of appearances for Leeds and Whistle liked what he saw of his fellow GB Under-18 prospect Hamill during training. He just hopes his registration can be completed in time for Saturday’s encounter with Raiders.

“He looked good,” added Whistle. “I really want him to get a chance to play because he deserves it, so hopefully everything will go through as I want to get him in there.”