Sam Zajac hails Leeds Chiefs win over NIHL National leaders Telford Tigers

SAM ZAJAC said he was relieved his Leeds Chiefs team finally got their just rewards against NIHL National leaders Telford Tigers.

By Phil Harrison
Monday, 20th January 2020, 3:24 pm
Updated Monday, 20th January 2020, 3:25 pm
Lewis Houston, far left, battles for possession during Sunday night's clash at league leaders Telford Tigers. Picture courtesy of Steve Brodie.
Lewis Houston, far left, battles for possession during Sunday night's clash at league leaders Telford Tigers. Picture courtesy of Steve Brodie.

The Chiefs snapped a four-game losing streak by marking their first-ever shootout with a 3-2 victory at St Quentin Gate on Sunday evening.

It narrowed the gap between themselves and the eighth and final playoff spot to 11 points with 19 games of the regular season remaining.

Making the post-season remains a tall order for the Elland Road club but the confidence gained from finally getting the better of top-of-the-table Telford - at the sixth time of asking - has come at just the right time, said Zajac.

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Leeds Chiefs' player-coach Sam Zajac, right, battles for possession with Telford's Brandon Whistle on Sunday. Picture courtesy of Steve Brodie.

“It was nice to finally get our just rewards because we’ve matched up well against them previously,” said Zajac.

“We’d come close to beating them a couple of times previously but just came out on the wrong end. We fully deserved everything we got on Sunday.

“There were even a couple of odd officiating decisions which made it feel like somebody, somewhere maybe didn't want us to win, but we found a way and to do it in a shootout was probably even sweeter. I was chuffed to bits for the guys.”

New import forward Patrik Valcak continued to show glimpses of what an asset he could be for the Chiefs in the run-in, scoring his first goal for the club in the first period to cancel out Telford’s eighth-minute opener.

The hosts regained the lead late in the second period through Jack Watkins, but the Chiefs rallied even quicker second time around, Joe Coulter dragging them level once again just 16 seconds later.

Chances came and went at both ends but nothing could separate the two sides until the shoot-out - a historic first for Leeds - which went their way after Lewis Hoston and Adam Barnes held their nerve to beat Brad Day.

At the other end, Sam Gospel denied Telford’s Scott McKenzie and Dominik Florian, although the latter was handed a second chance to score by the officials, this time, though, his effort cannoned off the crossbar.

“Both sides had periods where they were in the ascendancy and there were times in the second and third where we had them penned them in,” added Zajac.

“We were really good on the cycle and the D were good on the pinches and keeping the pressure on. It definitely wasn’t just a case of us defending for the best we really took the game to them at times.”