Leeds Knights: Defenceman Ben Solder backed to succeed after Elite League’s Manchester Storm issue recall
DEFENCEMAN Ben Solder has been backed to prove himself in the Elite League after being recalled by parent club Manchester Storm to provide injury cover this weekend.
The 20-year-old signed with Leeds Knights on a two-way deal last month and has impressed during pre-season and in Saturday’s 7-1 NIHL Autumn Cup win against Bees IHC.
But Knights’ head coach Dave Whistle will have to make do without the promising blue liner for Friday’s trip to Swindon Wildcats and Sunday’s home game against Telford Tigers.
Instead, Solder will be suiting up for Storm in the Challenge Cup at home to Sheffield Steelers on Saturday before heading down to Guildford 24 hours later when Ryan Finnerty’s team start their league campaign.
An injury sustained by Zach Sullivan last weekend has prompted Finnerty to take Solder back across the Pennines and, although Whistle admits losing the youngster is a blow, he is confident he is ready for the EIHL.
“This is what two-way deals are all about,” said Whistle. “Manchester was the team that brought him to us, so he’s their property first.
“But I’m excited for Ben that he gets an opportunity to get into a couple of games at that level. I believe he can step right in and can play at that level.
“And Ben wants to play at that level, he’s been a big player for us every game so far, so I’m sad to lose him because we’re up against two very good teams.
“We’re going to miss him, of course we are, but, at the same time, down the road I know him playing at that level will help our team.”
Despite the absence of Solder – which could be for several weeks according to Finnerty – the Knights still have six D to call on, owner Steve Nell having helped convince Whistle to include a ‘spare’ defenceman on the roster to cover situations such as this.
“I’m glad Steve convinced me on that,” added Whistle. “It will pay off because in the EIHL, there’s always going to be an injury here and there, so we’re probably going to miss Ben and Cole Shudra at various times of the year.
“But that will give some of our other players a chance to play more minutes. We have a good team and we should be able to miss one or two players here and there and still have enough to be successful.”
Solder first found himself part of the Storm organisation in this year’s behind-closed-doors Elite Series, initially drafted as part of the team’s reserve list ‘Taxi squad’ before being called up to the full roster.
He impressed throughout the tournament, having developed his game in the preceding six years in North America having left the UK aged 14.
Finnerty was happy to bring him back for the 2021-22 season but, keen to get him plenty of ice time, agreed a two-way deal for him with the Knights.
“We think he’s a very good prospect,” said Finnerty. “He’s got a lot of maturity in his game for a kid that hasn’t really played at a high level or has a lot of experience – he makes good plays under pressure and he’s got a ton of upside to him.
“Zach Sullivan got hurt at the weekend, so now we get the chance to use him – he’ll probably be with us for a few weeks.
“We knew we liked him and we think he can play at this level but, at the same time, we wanted him to benefit from getting quality ice time and playing different situations.
“And, in Leeds, obviously with Whis’ there, we know he’s going to be well-managed and well-coached and the proximity works well for us too.”