Leeds Knights netminder Sam Gospel reveals when he plans to return to the ice
AFTER several weeks of nothing but bad news on the injury front, things have slowly started to look up for Leeds Knights.
Last weekend saw the return of experienced centre Matty Davies, his appearance after five games out with a lower-body injury proving key in the thrilling 6-5 second leg win over Sheffield in the semi-finals of the Autumn Cup, a result which sealed a 9-6 aggregate triumph over their Yorkshire rivals.
Davies was one of six Knights players missing for the first leg at Ice Sheffield last Wednesday, a fact which makes the subsequent 3-1 win over Greg Wood’s team with just 12 skaters all the more impressive.
It’s understood that forward Cole Shudra and defenceman Jordan Griffin will not return to the fray until the start of December at the earliest, while on-loan centre Philip Edgar – injured in just his second game for the Knights – is definitely out this weekend.
Defenceman Ross Kennedy is still struggling with a lower body injury and has missed the last three games, while netminder Sam Gospel has now been out of his net for effectively seven games, forced off 15 minutes into the October 30 home defeat to Raiders IHC.
Gospel’s absence has coincided with a run of six straight defeats in the league, while coach Dave Whistle and owner Steve Nell have tried everything possible to plug the sizeable gap that has opened up because of the 27-year-old’s hamstring injury.
Three goalies – back-up Nik Trapans, plus temporary ‘loan’ additions Tyler Perre and Jordan McLaughlin – have taken it in turn to replace Gospel, McLaughlin proving the most effective with his performances in the cup wins against the Steeldogs.
And while this weekend will still be too early for Gospel to make his return, he is targeting the Knights’ visit to the Steeldogs on Friday, November 26 for when he will possibly get back at it.
It is news that will be music to the ears of his coach, his team-mates and the Knights’ fans, with this Friday’s regular practice session seeing Gospel take his first tentative skate back on the ice as one of the most important steps in his recovery.
After being forced to endure the longest injury-enforced spell in his 11-year senior career, the former Nottingham Panthers goalie is relieved his time on the sidelines is close to an end.
“I’ve never had anything like this before, it is the longest I’ve ever been out injured,” said Gospel. “I had a concussion when I was 17 and that was six weeks out, but concussion isn’t something you can take any chances with.
“But, to say I’m 27, I’ve been playing at this level or above 11 years, I’m doing okay, to make it this far without anything physically going wrong is quite good.
“I’d like to be back in the net the weekend after this one, that’s what I’ve told Dave. I’m just going to see what I can do in practice on Friday.”
Whistle has made no secret of the how highly he regards his first-choice goalie but, between him and Gospel, they are desperate to make sure he doesn’t come back too soon and risk making his situation worse.
“Dave’s been really good with it,” added Gospel. “He’s not pushed me with it at all. He’s said several times that he wants me back as soon as possible, but he knows that with hamstrings and goaltending, it is not a case of if you’re 50 per cent you can go – you have to be 100 per cent ready to return.
“Anything less than 100 per cent and I could easily take a big step back.
“And that’s what the physio in Nottingham has said – it’s just about time and while I’m a patient person, I’m not when it comes to stuff like this – I just want to get back to playing. I have missed playing so much, just being around the rink, the locker room.
“Even if I have to put it back another week, then I’ll have to. Every hockey player will have said that they play through a lot of injuries but this is one you can’t really get over without it being perfectly mended again.
“I feel like I’m towards the end of it all, but one move and it could just tear again and if it tears even worse then I’m looking at a January or February rehab – it’s just something I’ve got to be patient with.”