Leeds Knights look to put distance between themselves and Sheffield Steeldogs as Hull Seahawks target first win

YOU’D think that by winning your first 10 games and being the only remaining team to boast an unbeaten record in NIHL National would be enough to see Leeds Knights comfortably clear of all their rivals.

Not one bit.

Going into th is weekend’s’ double-header Yorkshire derby with third-placed Sheffield Steeldogs – the first instalment being tonight at Elland Road (6.30pm) – the Knights are actually tied at the top of the table with Peterborough Phantoms.

Granted, Peterborough have played two games more but it is an indicator of how close the 2022-23 regular season is likely to be.

DERBY DOUBLE: Leeds Knights' head coach Ryan Aldridge hopes his team can maintain their winning start to the 2022-23 NIHL National season. Picture: Bruce RollinsonDERBY DOUBLE: Leeds Knights' head coach Ryan Aldridge hopes his team can maintain their winning start to the 2022-23 NIHL National season. Picture: Bruce Rollinson
DERBY DOUBLE: Leeds Knights' head coach Ryan Aldridge hopes his team can maintain their winning start to the 2022-23 NIHL National season. Picture: Bruce Rollinson
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The Steeldogs arrive in Leeds to day boasting a five-game unbeaten run of their own, one extended by virtue of a hard-fought derby win over Hull Seahawks on Tuesday.

Knights’ head coach Ryan Aldridge always believed the addition of two teams would create a more level playing field. So far, he looks to have been proved right.

“T he league has spread out a little bit this year in quality – and for the better,” said Aldridge. “It’s a great league – every game is up in the air, nothing is a given and you have to work for the win every single night.

“We’ve had some high-scoring games this year, but I don’t think all those scorelines have necessarily reflected the actual games.”

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Greg Wood’s team are likely to be missing key personnel still, including influential forwards Jason Hewitt and Lee Bonner, while defenceman Tim Smith and Lee Haywood were also missing from the line-up that got the better of Matty Davies’s Seahawks in midweek.

The Seahawks will look to get over their midweek setback and end a 13-game winless start to the season when they face fellow NIHL National newcomers Bristol Pitbulls in a double-header weekend.

The Pitbulls, who play host tonight, have endured their own tough start, but have registered home wins over Bees IHC and Swindon Wildcats.

The Seahawks – still awaiting clearance for imports Andreas Themar and Emil Svec and missing defence pair Ross Connolly and Bobby Streetly – will see tomorrow’s return clash as their best chance yet of sealing that historic first win, hoping home ice advantage prevails over a Bristol team yet to win on the road.