NIHL National - Leeds Chiefs and Hull Pirates on the rise as Sheffield Steeldogs’ struggles continue

Andres Kopstals got off the goalscoring mark on Sunday night with two in Milton Keynes.  Picture: Bruce Rollinson
Andres Kopstals got off the goalscoring mark on Sunday night with two in Milton Keynes. Picture: Bruce Rollinson
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IT may only be one place, but it will have been of huge significance to Leeds Chiefs after a 6-4 road win at Milton Keynes Lightning finally saw them move off the bottom of the NIHL National standings.

Rooted there following the first full weekend of 2019-20 action, their minor elevation saw them replaced at the bottom by last night’s hosts.

Kieran Brown fired a hat-trick for Sheffield Steeldogs, but still ended up on the losing side to Telford Tigers. Picture courtesy of Cerys Molloy.

Kieran Brown fired a hat-trick for Sheffield Steeldogs, but still ended up on the losing side to Telford Tigers. Picture courtesy of Cerys Molloy.

The triumph gave them their first four-point weekend after Friday night’s 3-2 win at Sheffield Steeldogs.

While they wait for their Elland Road rink to be completed, Leeds play the first of their scheduled ‘home’ games next weekend against the Steeldogs, albeit at Blackburn where they are set to host two other games in November, with another match staged at Widnes.

The Chiefs got off to the perfect start in Buckinghamshire, going 1-0 ahead after just 110 seconds through an Adam Barnes power play strike.

Import centre Andres Kopstals opened his account for the season to make it 2-0 at 12.13, but the hosts were level early in the second period after two efforts from Rio Grenell-Parke.

We’re absolutely delighted to be returning home to Leeds with our first four-point weekend in the books. They were two really different games, but that just shows we can adapt and it was great to see different guys come to the fore for us.

Leeds Chiefs’ coach, Sam Zajac

But the visitors re-established their superiority quickly, Steven Moore making it 3-2 at 27.02 with Joe Coulter’s first for the Chiefs doubling the lead just 50 seconds later.

But, again, the Lightning refused to buckle, drawing level within four minutes through goals from new signing Tom Carlon and Cale Tanaka.

But, once Barnes’s second power play effort of the night went in at 33.35, there was no way back for the hosts, Kopstals scoring short-handed early in the third to seal a deserved victory.

“We’re absolutely delighted to be returning home to Leeds with our first four-point weekend in the books,” said player-coach Sam Zajac.

Bobby Chamberlain found the net four times across the weekend. Picture courtesy of Tony Sargent.

Bobby Chamberlain found the net four times across the weekend. Picture courtesy of Tony Sargent.

“It is the first in our history and is an indication of how well we are developing as a team at the moment.”

Elsewhere, Hull Pirates split the honours in their weekend double-header with Peterborough Phantoms, last night’s 4-2 home win taking them up to fourth in the standings, one place behind their opponents who had won the previous night’s encounter 5-4 on home ice.

Bobby Chamberlain gave the Pirates an 11th-minute lead last night, doubling his tally and the advantage at 40.43.

Thomas Norton halved the deficit for the Phantoms, but Sam Towner quickly made it 3-1 before Lee Bonner increased the advantage further at 49.31, Ales Padelek grabbing a consolation.

Hull had twice taken the lead the night before through new import David Norris and Chamberlain, their strikes sandwiching a reply from the Phantoms’ James Ferrara.

But four goals in six minutes from the home side – two from the stick of Padelek – effectively settled the game, despite replies from Towner and Chamberlain.

The Steeldogs slipped to fifth in the standings after a second loss in eight days to Telford Tigers.

Ben Morgan’s side had gone into the third period level at 3-3 thanks to a hat-trick from Kieran Brown, whose efforts had cancelled out strikes from Ross Kennedy (2) and Corey Goodison.

But the game got away from the hosts in the third, with Brandon Whistle (2) and Finley Howells ensuring the Tigers remained second in the standings.