WHENEVER injury strikes a player down - for however long - it is clearly never something that is regarded as well-timed.
The frustrations of being forced to stand on the sidelines and watch your team-mates compete without you are made even worse if the injury comes when you are in a rich vein of form.
That is certainly the case of Leeds Chiefs’ import forward Andres Kopstals who, after a tough start to his first season in British hockey, had started to emerge as one of the NIHL National club’s go-to guys.
With just two assists in his first seven appearances, Kopstals admitted to being frustrated over his struggles to convert his promising play into more points for his team.
But a 6-4 win at Milton Keynes Lightning towards the end of October proved to be a major turning point for the 25-year-old Canadian.
Not only did it bring the first-ever four-point weekend for the Chiefs, it was also a four-point weekend for their import, with Kopstals adding two goals and an assist just 48 hours after registering an assist in the 3-2 triumph over Sheffield Steeldogs.
I was happy with my game in the sense that the goals and the points had started to come more regularly, even though I hadn’t done anything to change my game or do anything more or less than I had been doing before.Andres Kopstals
Now, after 17 appearances, Kopstals is proving a regularly influential figure for his team, totalling five goals and eight assists, making him his team’s fourth-highest points scorer.
But on Saturday, he sustained an injury during the warm-up ahead of the clash at leaders Telford Tigers, the Chiefs taking the precaution to leave him out of the game, as well as the following night’s encounter at Milton Keynes.
The Chiefs were already light on numbers due to Adam Barnes (illness) and Lewis Baldwin (injury) already ruled out for that night’s game, a situation that deterioated even further when defenceman Bobby Streetly suffered a serious, upper-body injury which is feared to be long-term.
There is every hope that Kopstals will be back for this Saturday’s trip to Peterborough Phantoms, although his return will not be rushed if there is a risk of doing further, more long-term damage.
“Getting injured now, given the form I was in personally, makes it all the more frustrating to be honest,” admitted Kopstals about his upper-body injury.
“I was happy with my game in the sense that the goals and the points had started to come more regularly, even though I hadn’t done anything to change my game or do anything more or less than I had been doing before. It was just that the tide turned.
“My form seemed to run parallel with the team’s so it was frustrating at the weekend as I had probably been playing the best hockey I’ve played all year and I was also producing. So, yes it is tough, yes it is frustrating but I’m trying not to dwell on it and while the timing is not ideal, there’s nothing I can control, so I just have to roll with it.”
Kopstals says his ability to deal with the frustrating aspects of his game early in the season was a sign of his growing maturity and was a situation he would maybe not have been able to deal with so well in his junior career.
“My patience paid off,” he smiled. “I just kept going exactly how I knew I should and knew that the bounces would turn.
“I did get frustrated at times, but that shows how I’ve matured in recent years. Maybe if it had been five or six years ago, the doubts would have started creeping in, but I kept myself on the same path and kept telling myself that I could do it.
“The hope is that I can quickly back to that level of play when I return from this injury.”