Swindon Wildcats v Leeds Knights: All you need to know about tonight’s Autumn Cup Final showdown

LEEDS KNIGHTS head down to Wiltshire on Friday night to take on Swindon Wildcats in the first leg of their NIHL National Autumn Cup showdown.
HEAD TO HEAD: Leeds Knights will face off against Swindon Wildcats in the final of the two-legged Autumn Cup Final. Picture: James Hardisty.HEAD TO HEAD: Leeds Knights will face off against Swindon Wildcats in the final of the two-legged Autumn Cup Final. Picture: James Hardisty.
HEAD TO HEAD: Leeds Knights will face off against Swindon Wildcats in the final of the two-legged Autumn Cup Final. Picture: James Hardisty.

The second and deciding leg will be staged at Elland Road on Thursday, December 23 (7.30pm). Here is everything you need to know about the tie. Well, almost ...

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Face-off: Friday, November 17, 7.30pm. Venue: The Link Centre. Where to watch: Live stream – costing £10. Tickets can be bought HERE

DANGER MAN: Swindon Wildcats' Czech Republic-born forward Emil Svec. Picture courtesy of Kat Medcroft.DANGER MAN: Swindon Wildcats' Czech Republic-born forward Emil Svec. Picture courtesy of Kat Medcroft.
DANGER MAN: Swindon Wildcats' Czech Republic-born forward Emil Svec. Picture courtesy of Kat Medcroft.
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Team news: Knights coach Dave Whistle says defenceman Ross Kennedy is unlikely to feature due to illness, but forward Joe Coulter and Lewis Baldwin have both recovered after sitting out Sunday’s loss at Raiders IHC. Forward Harry Gulliver - one of the heroes of the semi-final win over Sheffield Steeldogs - is available from parent club Manchester Storm.

Last six games: Wildcats WWWLWW; Knights LWLLWL

Last time – Wildcats 2 Knights 3, October 23, 2021; NIHL National: Ethan Hehir gave Leeds a 30th-minute lead only for it to be quickly wiped out by Swindon player-coach Aaron Nell, whose team then took a 2-1 lead through a 43rd-minute power play strike from Edgars Bebris. With just 63 seconds left, Joe Coulter levelled with a power play marker, the game eventually going to a shootout, where Knights’ goalie Sam Gospel saved all three shots while Adam Barnes and Lewis Houston both scored.

They’ve got previous – Sep 24 (Autumn Cup): Swindon 3 Leeds 7; Oct 23 (League): Swindon 2 Leeds 3 (SO); Oct 24 (league): Leeds 3 Swindon 4.

KEY MAN: Leeds Knights' goaltender, Sam Gospel.KEY MAN: Leeds Knights' goaltender, Sam Gospel.
KEY MAN: Leeds Knights' goaltender, Sam Gospel.

Wildcats key man – Emil Svec: The 27-year-old Czech Republic-born forward has taken NIHL National by storm in his first season in the UK, so far registering 38 points from the 23 games played so far, including 28 goals.

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Talking point: Leeds hammered Swindon 7-3 in Wiltshire during the group phase of the Autumn Cup back in September, but the Wildcats are a different proposition now. Since losing to Leeds 3-2 at home in the league in October, Aaron Nell’s team have lost just twice in 16 games – once in overtime, the other in a shootout.

Leading scorers – Wildcats: Aaron Nell – Played: 22, Points: 51 (22 goals, 29 assists); Tomasz Malasinski – Played: 23, Pts: 40 (16+24); Emil Svec – Played: 23, Pts: 38 (28+10). Knights: Kieran Brown – Played: 26, Pts: 60 (27+33); Brandon Whistle – Played: 26, Pts: 59 (32+27); Adam Barnes – Played: 24, Pts: 30 (10+20).

Goaltending – Wildcats: Renny Marr – Games: 24; Shots Against: 680; Goals Against: 59; Save % 91.33 ; Knights: Sam Gospel – Games: 19; SA: 641; GA: 40; Save % 93.76