Leeds Knights v Peterborough Phantoms: Home 'comforts' vital for unbeaten NIHL National rivals
It was Peterborough Phantoms who got the second-tier campaign up and running last Friday night when they emerged 6-3 winners at home to Bees IHC.
They backed that up with a 5-2 win at Basingstoke Bison the following night, while Leeds Knights were seeing off reigning regular season champions Telford Tigers on home ice.
While the Phantoms took a deserved night off on Sunday, Leeds also made it two wins from two with an impressive 6-2 win at Raiders.
Swindon Wildcats and MIlton Keynes Lightning were the other two teams to post a 100 per cent start to the season, both helped by coming up against a seriously under-strength Hull Seahawks.
Knights’ head coach Ryan Aldridge believes Phantoms’ opposite number Slava Koulikov to be one of the best coaches in the British game, but wants his team to make sure home ice advantage counts all season, not just tonight.
“I really think our style of play suits this rink and we need to make this a tough place for other teams to come,” said Aldridge. “We’re a fast, direct hockey team that likes to shoot the puck, we like to keep the puck and when we lose the puck, we want to get it back.
“Peterborough have made a few key changes again this summer, so it will be interesting to see what they are all about. And you just know that they are going to be a tough team to play against, in this rink or theirs. Slava is a great coach. I think he over-achieves with that team every single year.”
And while home comforts should hopefully play into Leeds’ hands tonight, the same can be said for Peterborough when the two renew their rivalry in Cambridgeshire 24 hours later.
Over time, the Phantoms’ home rink has built up a reputation for being one of the more unwelcoming pads in the country, although Aldridge says the grim surroundings should not hold any surprises for his players.
"You go into the away changing room and it’s damp, cold and there’s mould on the walls,” he added. “It’s not an ideal place to be on a Sunday night but it’s just part and parcel of British hockey, I guess - there are more places like that than just Peterborough.”