NIHL National - Hull Pirates and Sheffield Steeldogs battle for top spot while Leeds Chiefs strive for lift-off

RIVALRY: Ben Morgan, Jason Hewitt and Sam Zajac.
RIVALRY: Ben Morgan, Jason Hewitt and Sam Zajac.
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HULL PIRATES put the only 100 per cent record remaining in NIHL National on the line when they welcome Raiders to East Yorkshire on Saturday.

Jason Hewitt's side went joint-top of the early-season standings when defeating Sheffield Steeldogs 7-5 at Ice Sheffield last weekend and, despite not having a game on the Sunday due to air conditioning and refrigeration issues at their rink, they remained there.

Sheffield Steeldogs' Lewis Bell, shortly after getting hit by the puck last weekend. Picture courtesy of Peter Best.

Sheffield Steeldogs' Lewis Bell, shortly after getting hit by the puck last weekend. Picture courtesy of Peter Best.

With Hull City Council finally having fixed the problem, the Pirates resume action against a Raiders team sitting second-bottom with just the one win from four games, that being a handsome 8-3 triumph over Ashley Tait's Basingstoke Bison.

The Pirates head to Telford Tigers on Sunday, one of three teams tied on six points with them. One of the other two is the Steeldogs, who resume action after bouncing back from that loss on home ice to Hull 24 hours later with a 4-1 win over Raiders in front of their own fans again.

Tonight sees Ben Morgan's team travel to Milton Keynes Lightning, who picked up their first win of the season last weekend with an 8-4 home victory over winless Leeds Chiefs.

Steeldogs return to South Yorkshire tomorrow to host Basingstoke, with captain Lewis Bell expecting a physical encounter.

James Archer, right, congratulates line-mate Radek Meidl during last week's clash at Bracknell. Picture courtesy of Kevin Blyfield.

James Archer, right, congratulates line-mate Radek Meidl during last week's clash at Bracknell. Picture courtesy of Kevin Blyfield.

"They have a similar line-up to last season and when we played them then, I noticed they were very disciplined and well-coached and knew their systems inside out," said Bell. "

"In Ashley Tait they’ve got a guy who is very experienced and knows a lot about hockey and I think that transfers to the team. I think it might be quite physical as I notice they had a few fights last weekend.”

Sam Zajac's Leeds take their search for a first-ever win on the road again, heading to Peterborough Phantoms on Sunday.

James Archer, who has three goals and five assists from four games this season, forming a blossoming partnership with import Radek Meidl, knows it will be tough going against a club he has had two previous spells at, the second one coming under head coach Slava Koulikov in the final season of the EPL in 2016-17.

"We’ve spoken about what we need to be doing ahead of this weekend," said Archer. "I’ve played under Slava and I know how well-drilled they will be as a team.

"Slava is very much a statistics kind of coach, he looks into everything and is very thorough. We’re going to have our work cut out, but it would be excellent to come out of there with that first win under our belts."