Leeds Knights get their reward after battling weekend on the road against Bees IHC and Milton Keynes Lightning

DAVE WHISTLE declared himself proud of his Leeds Knights team after their come-from-behind 5-3 win at Bees IHC - but felt they deserved more from a weekend when they were again substantially short-benched.

By Phil Harrison
Sunday, 5th December 2021, 9:42 pm
Updated Sunday, 5th December 2021, 9:43 pm
Brandon Whistle posted a four-point night against Bees IHC with two goals and two assists. Picture: James Hardisty
Brandon Whistle posted a four-point night against Bees IHC with two goals and two assists. Picture: James Hardisty

A combination of injuries and the unavailability of players on two-way deals with Elite League clubs left Leeds low on bodies going into Saturday’s trip to Milton Keynes Lightning, the situation improving slightly in Slough 24 hours later when Manchester Storm forward Harry Gulliver joined the away team bench.

Gulliver may not have contributed in terms of points but his presence just allowed Whistle more flexibility in his lines, easing the pressure on forwards who had already seen plenty of ice the previous evening in a 4-2 defeat.

It may have been Brandon Whistle and Kieran Brown who were the most productive in terms of goals and assists once again - although captain Sam Zajac merits a mention with three assists - but head coach Whistle was pleased with the contribution of his entire team, even if they needed a first intermission ‘reminder’ as to what was required of them when they found themselves 2-0 down.

Ethan Hehir got on the scoresheet with a goal and an assist in Sunday's 5-3 win t Bees IHC. Picture: Andy Bourke/Podium Prints.

“I’m very pleased with that result and the performance,” said Whistle. “I felt we came out sluggish and didn’t think we had one of our better first periods, so I kind of let them know it and they really came out and played really well in the second.

“We did everything really well, we chipped it in, we were willing to ice the puck when we didn’t have the play, we played smart.

“We got what we deserved - we even had guys dumping the puck who wouldn’t normally want to dump it and that told me that they were buying in to really make sure we got the win - it was awesome.

“I really wanted to take a point on the Saturday at MK, just as reward for how hard they all worked.

Leeds Knights head coach, Dave Whistle. Picture: James Hardisty

“When you don’t get that, you can sometimes get a little bit down and I really believe in helping them back up when they need to be helped back up and telling them when it’s not good enough and against Bees, it was one of those moments in the first period break when they needed telling.

“They came out, took the bull by the horns and did a great job - I’m 100 per cent proud of them.”

The signs were indeed ominous after the first 20 minutes after Ryan Webb’s fifth-minute opener was enhanced by a strike at 17.15 by Bayley Harewood.

But, with Whistle’s words presumably ringing in their ears, the Knights came out a different beast in the second, with three goals in five minutes putting them in the driving seat.

Ethan Hehir was first to strike, halving the deficit at 22.12, with a power play strike from Whistle following just over two minutes later.

Just over three more minutes had elapsed when Whistle and Hehir combined to set up Brown to rifle home past Adam Goss to leave the home side reeling.

They eventually restored parity with a Josh Smith strike early in the third, but there was no stopping the Knights, who forged ahead again with Whistle’s second of the night at 47.40, centre Matty Davies chipping in at 52.08 to give the visitors some breathing space, which they used well to play out the game without any further difficulties.

Milton Keynes Lightning 4 Leeds Knights 2

THEY might have been down to the bare bones but Leeds Knights came close to upsetting form team Milton Keynes Lightning on Saturday night.

With just four defencemen and seven forwards boarding the bus to Buckinghamshire, head coach Dave Whistle knew his players would have to produce something special if they were to take anything from a game against hosts who came into the clash boasting a six-game winning streak.

Entering the last 10 minutes, the Knights were deservedly level at 2-2, only to go behind to a Liam Stewart piledriver at 50.39 from which they never recovered, eventually losing out 4-2 when Sam Talbot scored an empty-netter with just 42 seconds left on the clock.

It was the hosts who broke the deadlock through former GB international Russell Cowley at 17.21, but the familiar goalscoring duo of Brandon Whistle and Kieran Brown were to hand the visitors the edge early in the second.

Whistle levelled at 23.27 on the power play with Cowley in the box on a four-minute high sticks call, before Brown silenced the home crowd just over three minutes later.

That was how it stayed until the final minute of the period when Sean Norris found a way past Sam Gospel.

Despite their lack of bodies, the Knights continued to frustrate in the third, with Whistle insisting they deserved at least a point for their efforts.

“It was a good game,” said Whistle. “We played well and it was a hard way to lose with only nine minutes left when they went ahead, we were kind of hoping to take at least a point there.

“We were playing well defensively, too, had some good scoring opportunities and we didn’t capitalise on a couple of them, maybe, and I felt their goalie played well - but we deserved something.”