Leeds Knights: Youngster Archie Hazeldine enjoying rapid progress to make big case for the defence

THERE were a whole host of reasons why Sunday night was a special occasion for young Leeds Knights’ defenceman Archie Hazeldine.

By Phil Harrison
Saturday, 20th November 2021, 7:15 am
Updated Saturday, 20th November 2021, 8:14 am
ON THE UP: Leeds Knights' defenceman Archie Hazeldine

Picture: Andy Bourke/Podium Prints
ON THE UP: Leeds Knights' defenceman Archie Hazeldine Picture: Andy Bourke/Podium Prints

Initially, he was due a thoroughly-deserved night off, having piled up the ice time across three games in four days for the Knights, two of which saw Dave Whistle’s team make it through to the NIHL National Autumn Cup Final at the expense of Sheffield Steeldogs.

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But, instead of resting his no doubt weary body, the 17-year-old was keen to take advantage of an opportunity that will live with him for a long time.

Leeds Knights defenceman Archie Hazeldine Picture: James Hardisty

First came the call to Whistle from Manchester Storm coach Ryan Finnerty asking if there were any players he could send up to play for the Elite League team in their Challenge Cup tie against Nottingham Panthers.

Whistle suggested Hazeldine, who readily seized his chance, meaning that less than three months after making his debut in the second tier with Leeds Knights, he was preparing for his first taste of life in the top tier of the UK game.

What made it even better was that it was against his boyhood team, Nottingham but, even more special than that, was the fact that he got to play alongside older brother Joe, a fellow defenceman who has been a regular for Manchester this season.

KEEP IT IN THE FAMILY: Archie Hazeldine, right, pictured with older brother Joe after playing alongside one another for Manchester Storm last weekend - against their boyhood club, Nottingham Panthers. Picture courtesy of Mark Ferriss/EIHL.

The younger Hazeldine made the most of his opportunity, even picking up an assist on a third period goal from Tyson Fawcett as the Storm swept Nottingham aside 7-3.

To say Hazeldine is pleased with his progress since moving to Leeds, is putting it mildly.

“Because my brother was playing, I was going to watch the Manchester-Nottingham game anyway, so when they asked me if I wanted to play, there was never any doubt,” said Hazeldine. “I was really nervous going into it, but then everybody welcomed me in and I think I had a good game, I think the coach was impressed with me.

IMPRESSED: Manchester Storm head coach Ryan Finnerty liked what he saw from Archie Hazeldine in their 7-3 Chalenge Cup win over Nottingham Panthers last Sunday. Picture courtesy of Mark Ferriss/EIHL.

“Playing against Nottingham made it even more special. It was a bit of a surreal moment, just to be on the ice with my brother at that level was really special. I’m happy that I got the opportunity to do it.

“I wasn’t paired up with him at first and then in the third period, Ryan put us together which was special. We’ve done it before but to do it at that level was just something else.

“When we played together for Nottingham Lions, we said to each other that we’d love to do it again, I just didn’t necessarily expect it to be this season in the Elite League.”

Storm boss Finnerty was certainly impressed with Hazeldine and is keen to get him over to Altrincham for a few practice sessions, with the possibility of more games down the line should he be free from his Leeds commitments.

“We were able call him up and he played close to 8-9 minutes and he got some good quality ice time for such a young kid,” said Finnerty. “He made some really good plays under pressure against a very good team and Nottingham was obviously his childhood team and he’d been watching them his whole life, so to then actually go out and play against them was pretty special for him.

“He got better as the game went on, settled in a bit more. There were always going to be some nerves, he had some family in town and he wanted to impress, but he did good.

“If we can get him up again we will. We’d love to get him over for practice too, although that is a little bit tough because we skate in the mornings, but we’d love to have a look at him.”

For Hazeldine, last Sunday capped what has been a remarkable few months, for a player who only made his senior debut earlier this year with Nottingham Lions in the English game’s third tier.

“It’s unbelievable, from where I was just a few months ago to where I am now, I feel like I’ve improved so much,” he said ahead of today’s home clash against Bees IHC.

“I’m feeling more confident in myself and a massive part of it is confidence and having the belief in your own ability.

“The time I have spent at Leeds, definitely helped me when I stepped up to play for Manchester.

“You’ve got to be in a supporting environment at this age and that’s what there is at Leeds - I’ve just got to make sure I take everything on board.”