Why Leeds Knights are not keen on taking 'mini-break' in NIHL National schedule
That position may be shared once again with Milton Keynes Lightning - the only team who can erase the four-point lead the Knights currently have - although that depends on the results from their encounters this weekend against Peterborough Phantoms and Bees IHC, no easy task given those two teams are respectively the fourth and fifth-placed teams.
And while we are just over a quarter of the way through the regular season schedule, the Knights are proving to be the ones to catch, much like they were for the entirety of the 2022-23 campaign, one which, of course, ended in such memorable fashion with a league and play-off double, along with a runners-up spot in the National Cup.
Whether the Knights can sustain the kind of relentless form which made them the standout team last season second time around remains to be seen.
But the signs are already quite ominous.
This will be the Knights’ second full weekend off in three weeks given the postponement of their home game against Telford Tigers on October 29 in the wake of the Adam Johnson tragedy.
And while this latest mini-break will be welcomed as an opportunity for some players to rest the usual bumps and bruises picked up during the course of a season, there is a large dose of frustration in the Knights’ camp at their latest bout of inactivity, simply because they are on the back of an eight-game winning streak.
The challenge will be to pick up from where they left off at home on Sunday with what was, at times, a scintillating performance in a 7-2 win over Raiders IHC.
Their return to action - at home to Bees IHC on Saturday, November 25 - brings only brief respite, however, given they are again without a game the following day.
Some degree of normality returns the following weekend of December with a home and away double-header against the Lightning.
Reflecting on the first seven weeks of the season, which has produced 13 wins and just two losses from their 15 games, Knights’ head coach Ryan Aldridge is understandably satisfied with the progress made.
But he is already counting down the days until he can return to a normal pre-match build-up.
“It’s too long,” said Aldidge. “We had a weekend off the other week, we’ve played four away games in that time and then we’ve come home for one game and now we’re off for nearly two weeks
“The boys want to be on the puck, they want to be playing games, especially with the winning streak we’re on and the form we’re in.
“On Sunday, against the Raiders, I felt that first period was the first time we were ‘us’ - in terms of the way that I want to see us to play.
“I wanted to see more of that this weekend but I won’t be able to, sadly - we’ll just have to find a way around that by the time we come back.
“We’ve got a couple of players that have got niggly injuries, so the break has actually come at a good time for them, it does give them some time to rest up and come back fresher.
“But, overall, it’s far from ideal to be without a game for almost two weeks.”