LEEDS CHIEFS secured their second win of the NIHL National campaign when a goaltending masterclass from Sam Gospel saw them edge out Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Steeldogs.
The 3-2 victory was only the second win of the season for the Chiefs, but was enough to lift them level on points with Milton Keynes Lightning who they face-off against tomorrow.
It required some dogged defending in the third period with bodies being thrown on the line to block shots but, allied with Gospel’s performance, it was enough to frustrate Ben Morgan’s team.
Having enjoyed the better of the first period, the Steeldogs deservedly went ahead at 24.24 through Nathan Salem off a feed from behind by Kieran Brown.
But the Chiefs rallied and levelled through the first of the night from in-form Adam Barnes just over two minutes later and although the hosts had several chances to regain the lead they found themselves behind going into the second break after Barnes rifled a second past Dimitri Zimozdra at 33.03 following a breakaway involving Radek Meidl and James Archer.
Salem equalled Barnes’s tally at the other end to level matters when he showed a great touch to skate across the front of Gospel and force the puck home past his outstretched leg at 43.22.
But, once again, the Chiefs were quick to respond, this time Bobby Streetly firing what proved to be the game-winner exactly a minute later. A huge 5-on-3 penalty kill from the Chiefs gave them extra impetus, while Gospel maintained his form – turning away 54 of 56 shots on his goal - to see his team through to a crucial win.
Both teams take tonight off and resume action tomorrow, with the Steeldogs at home against top-of-the-table Telford Tigers. Leeds head to Milton Keynes looking to gain some payback on an 8-4 defeat against Lewis Clifford’s side last month.
Hull Pirates have a double-header against Peterborough Phantoms, the team they dramatically beat 5-4 in overtime in last season’s play-off final.
Hull edged their two pre-season challenge games, but this weekend brings them together for the first time in a competitive fixture.