IF Leeds Chiefs are to stand any chance of gatecrashing the NIHL National playoffs, they are probably going to have to find a way to get the better of Hull Pirates at some point.
The Chiefs have 15 games in which to make up a seemingly stubborn 12-point gap on Raiders, the team currently sat in the eighth and final playoff spot.
Three of those 15 games bring the Chiefs up against Hull, who have won all five of the previous encounters between the two this season.
With the Chiefs having little room for error between now and the end of the regular season on March 22, this weekend could go a long way to determining their playoff hopes.
After tonight, they face a home-and-away double-header against Milton Keynes Lightning, returning to Elland Road on Sunday to play host to Lewis Clifford’s team.
“These games keep ticking down and there is still a sizable gap there,” said Chiefs’ player-coach Sam Zajac,whose team have three games in hand on Raiders and ninth-placed Bracknell Bees.
“Every time we feel like we’ve made up ground it seems like both Bracknell and Raiders peg us back again.
“We are maybe starting to run out of games but there are six points up for grabs this weekend and those six points could make a huge difference.”
Following his team’s struggles against Hull this season, Zajac hopes home ice advantage can be the one previously missing ingredient that can help them finally get over the line against Jason Hewitt’s fourth-placed team, who saw a six-game league winning streak end with defeat at Sheffield Steeldogs last Sunday.
We are maybe starting to run out of games but there are six points up for grabs this weekend and those six points could make a huge difference.Leeds Chiefs’ player-coach, Sam Zajac
“Three games in as many nights, no matter who you’re playing, can be taxing, physically demanding and mentally tough,” added Zajac, who will be without forwards Jordan Kelsall and Connor Henderson, both of who are expected to return for tomorrow’s trip to Milton Keynes.
“Hull are a team who, on their night, can be unplayable, so we need to be at 100 percent. We feel like we maybe owe them a result too, we’ve had a couple of games where we’ve played really well against them and came away having snatched defeat from the jaws of victory a couple of times.
“Then we’ve had a couple of games where we’ve not really been at the races and they’ve punished us.
“But we’re at home, it’s a small rink and things happen quicker here. There will be a lot of chances at both ends and we need to make sure we outwork them, be physical and stay disciplined in order to get something out of the game.”