Leeds Knights: Dave Whistle moves fast to plug increasing number of gaps in roster

DAVE WHISTLE admits Leeds Knights are going to have to be solid defensively over the coming weeks as they adapt to playing without a significant chunk of their scoring firepower.

By Phil Harrison
Saturday, 30th October 2021, 6:55 am
Updated Saturday, 30th October 2021, 10:30 am
NEW FACE: Harry Gulliver, centre, will lace-up in his first game for Leeds Knights tonight after agreeing a two-way deal with parent club, Manchester Storm. Picture courtesy of Mark Ferriss/EIHL.
NEW FACE: Harry Gulliver, centre, will lace-up in his first game for Leeds Knights tonight after agreeing a two-way deal with parent club, Manchester Storm. Picture courtesy of Mark Ferriss/EIHL.

Veteran centre Matty Davies is set to miss the next two weekends with a lower-body injury, while two-way forward Cole Shudra could be out until late December as he recovers from an upper-body blow that he suffered in the 5-3 win at Peterborough Phantoms on October 17.

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Whistle will also have to make do without two defencemen over the next two days, with Ben Solder called back up by parent club Manchester Storm to help out with their three-game weekend which started with last night’s 7-4 defeat against Sheffield Steelers in Altrincham.

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ABSENT: Leeds Knights' defenceman Ben Solder has been recalled by parent club Manchester Storm for their three-game weekend. Picture: Andy Bourke/Podium Prints

The Storm head to Sheffield for a quick rematch tonight before staying on the road for a league encounter with Guildford Flames tomorrow.

Jordan Griffin remains sidelined – another player possibly not returning until December – as he recovers from injuries sustained in a car accident just over two weeks ago, an incident which has also robbed him of the chance to represent Great Britain Under-20s at the World Championships in Romania shortly before Christmas.

But, while all four are big losses for the Knights to contend with, Whistle has moved quickly to bring in replacements, albeit ones with much less experience.

While Solder returns to the Storm fold, another young British player - Harry Gulliver - is heading the other way across the Pennines, joining the Knights on the same kind of two-way deal.

SIDELINED: Cole Shudra could be out until mid-December. Picture: Andy Bourke/Podium Prints

He has featured in 10 games for Ryan Finnerty’s team this season but has found ice time limited, although he is likely to be given plenty of opportunities to impress against Raiders IHC at Elland Road tonight (face-off 6.30pm).

He could be joined by another new face in the shape of Carter Hamill, a former Belfast Giants Juniors team-mate of Mack Stewart, the 17-year-old forward who has already made a handful of appearances for the Knights.

Whistle is hoping the registration process to add Hamill to his roster – albeit on a temporary basis – can be completed in time for tonight’s game.

Elsewhere, goaltender Niks Trapans – who Whistle had hoped to add for last weekend’s double-header against Swindon Wildcats – has seen his registration go through this week, meaning he can be back-up to No 1 goalie Sam Gospel for tonight and tomorrow’s trip to Slough to take on Bees IHC.

All in all, it’s a set of circumstances that will test the Knights depth –they can ice only five recognised defenders – as they look to return to winning ways after their three-game winning start to the season was ended on home ice by Swindon last Sunday.

“Right now we have a different line-up than the one we had a few weeks ago when we beat Raiders 10-4 in the Autumn Cup,” said Whistle.

“We had more firepower earlier on in the year than we have now with the players we’ve lost. Essentially, Matty Davies and Cole Shudra are two thirds of one of our top-scoring lines.

“And these guys coming in are not necessarily going to replace the offence that we’ve lost, although they will replace other key aspects.

“So we’re going to have to keep playing better defensively to compensate for that difference and make sure we bury any chances we get at the other end.”