Leeds Knights: Kieran Brown leading the Knights NIHL National charge in exceptional season of scoring
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The Knights remain firmly in the hunt for the NIHL National runners-up spot, despite Sunday night’s 6-2 loss at champions-elect Telford Tigers. And Ryan Aldridge’s team will head into the post-season play-offs regarded by many as being among the favourites to triumph at the Final Four Weekend at Coventry’s SkyDome Arena.
Should Sam Zajac or Matty Davies find themselves lifting the sought-after play-off final trophy on Sunday, May 1, it will undoubtedly be the result of a massive team effort – both on and off the ice. The size of the role played by Brown, however, will have been considerable.
On Saturday, as the Knights edged out play-off chasing Bees IHC in an 11-goal thriller at Elland Road, Brown served up just the latest reminder of how invaluable he has been since the first puck dropped back in early September.
The latest milestone for the 21-year-old former Sheffield Steelers forward arrived with 35.25 on the clock, a short-handed strike handing him his 50th goal of the regular season league campaign.
Overall, Brown is league-leading in every way you can imagine, boasting a remarkable tally of 129 points – 68 of them goals – in just 56 appearances.
Small wonder, then, that the Knights fans were so happy when news came out in February that he had agreed a deal to remain in West Yorkshire for at least one more season.
There have been many other significant individual contributions - Adam Barnes with his current scoring form and goaltender Sam Gospel to name but two - but this is a team that has developed as a single unit, one that is growing on all areas of the ice, one on a seemingly unstoppable roll.
That roll was brought to a shuddering halt - at least temporarily - in Shropshire, Tom Watkins’s Tigers’ team showing why they are destined to retain the regular season title they first won in NIHL National’s inaugural season in 2019-20, before the global pandemic brought everything to a standstill.
The Tigers were 3-0 ahead before the Knights were able to respond, Bayley Harewood, Vladimir Luka and Jack Hopkins all finding a way past Gospel.
Brown - who else? - responded for the visitors at 26.08 but it wasn’t long before the hosts’ restored their three-goal advantage through a second for Haywood.
The game was effectively over as a contest before the second intermission, Luka and Hopkins both matching Harewood’s tally, with Brown’s second of the night just 24 seconds into the third completing the scoring.
On Saturday, the Knights were made to work hard for the full 60 minutes to clinch both points against a Bees team fighting desperately for the eighth and final play-off spot. The first two minutes of the third period proved the key moment when the Knights scored twice in 46 seconds, Brown completing his hat-trick at 40.55 before Lewis Baldwin doubled his tally for the night.
William Stead completed his own hat-trick when making it a one-goal game again inside the last five minutes, but the Knights held out.
Earlier, the two sides had traded goals back and forth in the first 40 minutes. Brown, at 13.26 and then Baldwin just 52 seconds later, put the Knights in control, only for Doug Sheppard’s team to haul themselves level before the first break through Stead.
The visitors then went ahead early in the second through Dominik Gabaj, the in-form Barnes equalising just after the halfway point before Josh Martin made it 4-3 at 32.00
Brown’s milestone 50th league strike with the Knights shorthanded levelled matters again, before the hosts struck the match-deciding double early in the third to ensure they remained in the hunt for second spot.