Leeds Knights Fans Jury: Down but not out as NIHL National play-off bid continues

IT was a harsh introduction to a first-ever play-off campaign for the Knights - but hope remains of making it through to Coventry.

By Phil Harrison
Wednesday, 13th April 2022, 4:45 pm

Jim Piper, Manchester: It was not the outcome any of us would have wished for our first ever play-off games. Before I give my take on it, congrats to Milton Keynes Lightning on two excellent playoff games.

I think all of us would have snapped a hand off if we had been offered fourth in the league this season.

From my perspective the team have well-exceeded expectations through skill, guts and sheer perseverance throughout what was a difficult campaign.

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DOWN BUT NOT OUT: Jordan Griffin finishes his check on a Milton Keynes opponent, but Leeds Knights need to win their remaining four play-off games to stand a chance of making it through to the NIHL National play-off finals weekend in Coventry on April 30. Picture courtesy of Oliver Portamento.

We have suffered more than our share of injuries to key players than we ably managed to cope with.

Two-way players are a necessity in our league but calls by their parent club really impacted on our ability to maintain stability. On the other hand, many thanks to all players who stepped in to aid the team during our short bench periods.

We have seen and enjoyed some outstanding hockey and although I must mention Sam Gospel and Kieran Brown for their personal achievements, it would be unfair not to mention the whole squad for their commitment and endeavour throughout the season.

This may sound like a season obituary but far from it.

Kieran Brown has not scored so far for Leeds Knights in the post-season. Picture courtesy of Oliver Portamento.

We still have four play-off games to play and the opportunity to end a momentous season on a high.

So please, get yourself down to ‘The Castle’ on Saturday and the following Friday and cheer and show your appreciation for all the hard work the lads and the coaching staff have put in since September.

Would love to see as many fans as possible at our two remaining away games too. The lads really appreciate the support they have had all season.

Nick Jackson, Leeds: Not the weekend we wanted really – one that I had high hopes for.

TOUGH TASK: Leeds Knights head coach Ryan Aldridge Picture: Bruce Rollinson

We took eight points of MK Lightning in the league and there was no reason we couldn’t do it again.

However, something went wrong and we didn’t turn up.

None of the cohesion we have seen all season was there on Friday night.

Nothing seemed to work and MK showed the Knights how to do it.

Sunday was a bit better, two goals from Shudra still couldn’t win us the game but it was much closer.

Roll on this weekend when we play Bees IHC on Saturday at home and Sunday at Telford Tigers. We need some wins and hopefully we’ll get one this weekend to keep our hopes alive.

Looking at where we finished this year, the performances from the players and the massive increase in fans at ‘The Castle’ there’s absolutely everything to be proud of.

This team has a bright future and I can’t wait to be along for the ride.

Johnathan Greenwood, Halifax: While there was no club experience of play-off hockey before Friday night the post-game feeling must have been one of ‘how not to go about things’.

A 5-0 humbling in Milton Keynes came as a result of nothing clicking for the Knights against an ultra-effective Lightning.

Second period goals from Liam Stewart, Sean Norris and Tim Wallace saw the home side rewarded for a game they had the better of throughout.

The visitors never really turned up and whether this was because of a number of players were returning from illness or injury, it led to a tough evening. By 42.14, and Sam Talbot’s powerplay goal, the contest was well gone, Bobby Chamberlain rounding off the scoring.

The reverse game at Elland Road on Sunday was a much more competitive affair but, ultimately, ended in Lightning taking the spoils again with two third-period goals.

Chamberlain levelled the contest at 44.34 - Cole Shudra having earlier struck in each period. But, less than two minutes later, the Lightning got their game-winner through the ever-persistent Sam Talbot.

In truth, it was probably deserved. The Knights took a number of penalties and struggled to control the puck at the right end of the ice. Having scored just two goals in nine periods of hockey and with issues on both sides of the power play it has been a tough few weeks.

The visit of Bees on Saturday after two defeats to Telford gives a great opportunity to get points on the board and fine-tune previous errors quickly. It is simply a must-win.

The task will then be to visit Telford and return home with some kind of result in the hopes of keeping a final four place alive into the final week.

It won’t be an easy task but this side have proved they are capable throughout a much longer period this season and, as they say: it’s not over until the drumming stops!