Leeds Knights netminder Harrison Walker happy to step up and edge champions closer to second NIHL National title

AS weekends go, it couldn’t really have gone any better for Leeds Knights’ netminder Harrison Walker.

Thrust on to centre stage after Leeds Knights’ No 1 netminder Sam Gospel was called away to attend the birth of his son, the 21-year-old goalie was able to stand tall and guide his team to a pivotal six-point weekend.

Read More
Leeds Knights within touching distance of NIHL National title after posting perf...

The wins over Swindon Wildcats and Hull Seahawks - twice - leave the Knights needing just one more win from their remaining six games to guarantee them retaining their NIHL National league title.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad
STEPPING UP: Harrison Walker helped Leeds Knights secure three wins in as many nights after being asked to deputise for No 1 netminder Sam Gospel. Picture: Ryan Whitford/Knights Media.STEPPING UP: Harrison Walker helped Leeds Knights secure three wins in as many nights after being asked to deputise for No 1 netminder Sam Gospel. Picture: Ryan Whitford/Knights Media.
STEPPING UP: Harrison Walker helped Leeds Knights secure three wins in as many nights after being asked to deputise for No 1 netminder Sam Gospel. Picture: Ryan Whitford/Knights Media.

Even a single point at second-placed Milton Keynes Lightning will be enough to secure a second successive regular season crown.

Walker only found out a few hours before face-off at the Link Centre on Friday that he would be making only his second start of the season.

An understandable mix of nerves and excitement followed on the coach trip down to Wiltshire on what looked on paper like a tough weekend for the Knight.

But once the puck dropped, Walker stepped up and delivered when he was required to.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad
ON THE UP: Leeds Knights' goaltender, Harrison Walker. Picture: Aaron Badkin/Knights Media.ON THE UP: Leeds Knights' goaltender, Harrison Walker. Picture: Aaron Badkin/Knights Media.
ON THE UP: Leeds Knights' goaltender, Harrison Walker. Picture: Aaron Badkin/Knights Media.

Given he is back-up to a goalie in Gospel who many people consider to be the best in the league, ice time - in particular starts - have been hard to come by for Walker this season.

But the former Bradford Bulldogs’ junior, who has also made a number of appearances with Widnes Wild as part of the two-way relationship between the two clubs, showed great composure across three testing nights - much to his understandable delight.

“I’d just got out of the shower on the day we were travelling down to Swindon when I found out,” recalled Walker. “I was very excited, a little bit nervous because we all knew what it was going to be like down there in Swindon - we all knew it was a massive weekend in terms of the league title.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“And so there were a few nerves, but mainly I was just excited to get out there and have fun.”

Have fun he certainly did, saving 107 of the 114 shots on his net across the three nights.

Gospel could return for Saturday’s trip to Buckinghamshire but Walker laid down a marker at the weekend, in what could prove to be a pivotal moment in his netminding career.

It has certainly given him the belief that he belongs at this level, particularly in overcoming a Swindon team who were also the opponents in the 9-7 home win for Leeds just five days earlier.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“I didn’t want it to be a run and gun kind of game like the Sunday before,” added Walker. “I wanted it to be close and I knew that they’d keep it close in their rink, like it was the previous time down there when they won 1-0.

“But the whole team played so well in front of me, too. That was probably the best game we’ve played defensively all year, everyone did their job and so I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

“So I was over the moon with the way that game went. It was such a big win for the team because it is often such a tough place to play.

“It has showed me that I can play in this league and that I can play against the top teams and do it. It was nice to have that reassurance that I am actually here to play. And playing three in three, it was probably the first time I’ve done that since we played Conference.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Despite the lack of game time, Walker believes his game has still progressed at the Knights, thanks in part to the coaching set-up in place there.

“I feel like I’m a lot more confident, a lot more professional in my approach,” he added. “And that is partly down to this place and the coaching team - Ryan, Davey Lawrence and Colin Booth.

“It’s very professional, they keep your head on your shoulders and this weekend showed that as it all came together.”

Despite being unavailable, first-choice goalie Gospel kept up to speed with how the Knights – and Walker – were progressing throughout the weekend.

He was particularly delighted for his netminding partner.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“I’m so proud of Harrison, stepping in at short notice is difficult, so I’m glad the lads pulled together to support him,” said Gospel.

“He’s a hard worker and has supported me so well over these past two seasons.

“He’s got talent, so nurturing and giving him time to learn is important – he’s a great goalie partner.”