Sheffield Steeldogs march on in NIHL National but Leeds Knights take another tumble

SHEFFIELD STEELDOGS maintained their lead at the top of the NIHL National table with another four-point weekend.

BUOYANT: Sheffield Steeldogs' head coach, Greg Wood. Picture courtesy of Peter Best.

Saturday saw them return from their visit to London to take on Raiders IHC with a 5-2 victory, before enjoying a 3-1 win at home to Milton Keynes Lightning on Sunday.

By contrast, Leeds Knights’ struggles continued when they saw their losing streak extended to five games, losing twice to 2019-20 league and cup champions Telford Tigers, who sit second in the standings, one point adrift of Sheffield.

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Leeds suffered a third straight defeat on home ice when losing out 7-4 at Elland Road on Saturday, before suffering an 8-5 reverse in Telford 24 hours later.

LEADING LIGHT: Sheffield Steeldogs' Lee Bonner posted two goals and an assist in Saturday's 5-2 win at Raiders IHC Picture: Andy Bourke/Podium Prints

For full details on Leeds Knights’ defeats to Telford Tigers head to our Leeds Evening Post website HERE

The two Yorkshire clubs are now preparing for this week’s Autumn Cup two-legged semi-final, the first encounter of which takes place at Ice Sheffield on Wednesday night (7.30pm) before the tie is settled at Elland Road 48 hours later (7.30pm face-off).

The Steeldogs were made to work hard on home ice by a Lightning team ravaged by Covid-related absences and forced to call up players from several different clubs in order to ice a team.

After just over six minutes the hosts were 2-0 ahead through strikes from Brady Doxey and Tim Smith and it looked as if the Lightning were on their way to suffering a repeat of the 6-1 defeat they suffered the previous night at Swindon Wildcats.

SIX-HITTER: Leeds Knights' forward Brandon Whistle scored six goals and two assists across two games against former club Telford Tigers, but it couldn't prevent defeat on either night. Picture: James Hardisty.

But the ship was steadied and even though Steeldogs’ captain Lewis Bell made it 3-0 in the 45th minute, the visitors pulled the deficit back to two goals just 54 seconds later through Logan Prince.

On Saturday, head coach Greg Wood’s team were not surprisingly made to work hard by Raiders before their class shone through in the third period.

After a goalless third period, Jason Hewitt put the visitors in front just 50 seconds into the second, although the hosts were next to strike when they levelled through Jake Sylvester at 34.49.

Lee Bonner ensured the Steeldogs went in at the second break ahead with his first of the night at 38.02 although only 41 seconds had elapsed in the third before the Raiders were level through Aaron Connolly.

Within three minutes, however, Matt Bissonnette scored what proved to be the match-winning goal, Bonner’s second at 46.53 further strenghtening the Steeldogs’ grip on the game, with James Spurr adding a fifth in 58th minute on the power play.

“Minus a few shifts in the second period I thought we were in complete control the whole way through,” said Wood after the win in Romford.

“This team has been so consistent over the last 33 games, I noticed we have amassed 55 points out of the last 62 available which is really good going for a team at any level.

“We have a depth and fluidity throughout the team. One thing I like is that we have a handful of guys who can play up and down the roster so no matter where the opportunity presents itself, we have guys that can step in and play to that system, it is good for competition for places.”

Brandon Whistle scored a hat-trick on both nights for Leeds, but it couldn’t prevent Dave Whistle’s team enduring a second straight pointless weekend. The Knights now sit seventh in the table and will need to find something special this week if they are to find a way past an in-form Steeldogs’ team.

For full details on Leeds Knights’ defeats to Telford Tigers head to our Leeds Evening Post website HERE