Leeds Knights defenceman Ross Kennedy seeking quality first on NIHL National return

DEFENCEMAN Ross Kennedy is hopeful the new NIHL National season will see the British game’s second tier pick up where it was forced to leave off last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Saturday, 19th June 2021, 6:55 am
Ross Kennedy chases down the puck during a game between Telford Tigers and Swindon Wildcats in 2019-20. Picture courtesy of Steve Brodie.
Ross Kennedy chases down the puck during a game between Telford Tigers and Swindon Wildcats in 2019-20. Picture courtesy of Steve Brodie.

The 23-year-old, who earlier this week signed with Leeds Knights enjoyed a profitable one and only year with Telford Tigers during 2019-20, proving an integral part of Tom Watkins’s team that won a league and cup double.

There was no opportunity to go for the treble after the remainder of the regular season was curtailed amid the introduction of the first UK lockdown, leading to the post-season play-offs to be cancelled.

Later in the summer, Kennedy agreed to move north to join Leeds Chiefs, but again there was frustration when the pandemic ensured there would be no 2020-21 season, with a handful of second-tier teams later taking part in two, separate behind-closed-doors tournament.

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Ross Kennedy, pictured in action for Telford Tigers during their double-winning 2019-20 NIHL National season. Picture courtesy of Steve Brodie.

But optimism is high that a September start is possible for the second tier, with Kennedy keen to make up for lost time and hopeful that the standard of play will quickly return to the level enjoyed in its inaugural season.

“What we all want is the fast-paced, quality hockey that it had become in NIHL National towards the end of that first season,” said Kennedy, who has not played competitively since March last year.

“I think everyone was pleased with how the standard developed as we went on, the pace of the game increased throughout the season and towards the end, every shift was 100 per cent full-on.”

Kennedy is impressed with the signings made by the Knights so far and believes having the likes of fellow defenceman Sam Zajac on board should ensure that head coach Dave Whistle goes into the season with the right blend of youth and experience.

“It’s important you have the right balance in terms of youth and experience,” added Kennedy. “That’s what worked well for us in Telford – it must have done because we had the likes of Jonathan Weaver and Jason Silverthorn and we ended up winning the league and cup.”