Leeds Knights: Lewis Houston keeps his cool to seal shoot-out win over Swindon Wildcats
AN indication of how closely-fought the NIHL National league is going to be this season came on Saturday night.
All four games were one-goal encounters, all settled late on, or in need of either overtime or a shootout.
Leeds Knights opted for the latter as they were pushed all the way by a Swindon Wildcats side who will be – like Dave Whistle’s team – in the mix for honours all season. It also meant they maintained their 100 per cent start to the regular season ahead of Sunday night’s rematch at Elland Road (5.15pm).
The Knights’ previous visit to the Link Centre in Swindon had been a cakewalk, returning home with a 7-3 victory in the Autumn Cup to boast about.
This time around they were forced to scrap until the bitter end for two points that could prove vital come the end of the regular season.
It looked like they would be facing a miserable return journey in the early hours of Sunday morning, though, as the final minute approached with them trailing 2-1.
But, with 63 seconds left on the clock, up popped Joe Coulter on the power play to level, taking the game into overtime and then a shoot-out.
Once there, Knights’ goaltender Sam Gospel – who had already excelled in turning away all but two of the 35 shots on his net – proved his value once again, saving three of Swindon’s shots, while Adam Barnes and then Lewis Houston in sudden death saw the visitors over the line.
Earlier, Ethan Hehir had given Leeds a 30th-minute lead with his fifth of the season, an advantage quickly wiped out by Swindon player-coach Aaron Nell.
His team then looked as if they were heading towards a 2-1 win after a 43rd-minute power play strike from Edgars Bebris, until Coulter and then Houston struck to force them to settle for just the one point.