Hull Seahawks 1-4 Leeds Knights
Hull Seahawks faced another tough battle against Yorkshire rivals and table toppers the Leeds Knights on Thursday evening. In front of what turned out to be an exceptional crowd, a near sellout, Leeds prevailed 4-1 in a game that was much closer than the scoreline suggests for so long.
Having gone down to a 5-1 defeat the previous night to the Sheffield Steeldogs, Hull were looking for a bounce-back performance.
Face-off was delayed by 30 minutes due to the unprecedented demand, however, this did not seem to faze both teams as the opening minutes produced chances at both ends. Netminders Jordan McLaughlin and Sam Gospel were both drawn into action early as Leeds looked to pile on the pressure. Hull held out well on two Leeds power plays following penalties against Nathan Salem and Declan Balmer, as Leeds looked to find a goal with the man advantage for the first time in December. Mac Howlett, Leeds’ latest signing from the Dundee Stars in the EIHL, had an electric start to the game and drove towards the net ten minutes in creating a one-timer opportunity for teammate Matt Haywood who opened the scoring giving Leeds a one-goal advantage they carried through into the second period.
The next twenty minutes looked to be a more cagey affair, with Hull failing to capitalise on power play opportunities as they had the night before in Sheffield. The shot count was much more even in the second period as the Seahawks began to grow more into the contest. It was the performances of Gospel and McLaughlin in net who continued to impress as well as Kell Beattie being particularly dynamic for the Seahawks with his long stretching drives from behind his own net and into the Leeds zone. Jordan McLaughlin was knocked down twice due to collisions with both Grant Cooper and Zach Brooks, the second of which led to a penalty for goaltender interference, cancelled out by a hooking call against Balmer. Hull still could not find the back of the Leeds net, and both teams headed to the dressing rooms at the end of the second with the scoreline the same as it was prior to the period, 1-0 to the Leeds Knights.
Just over four minutes into the third period Hull import Andrej Themar levelled the game unassisted with an awkward shot which found its way passed Gospel, preventing him from getting back-to-back shutouts. The energy around the arena was incredible with both sets of fans lifting their teams for the final fifteen minutes with the points all to play for. A couple of good chances for the Svec-Salem-Themar line produced glimpses of hope of a Hull lead, particularly a slap shot from deep by Emil Svec but it was the Leeds Knights who did what they have done all season and produced a couple of offensive moments of magic, firstly with Cooper’s shot from the face-off which found a way passed McLaughlin low to his left, and then Kieran Brown, the Leeds Captain, finding Cole Shudra in front of the net to stretch it to a two-goal advantage with 6 to play. Leeds found their fourth only thirty seconds later with a first senior goal by Ollie Endicott which put the game out of Hull’s reach and meant that Leeds returned to the Castle with two points.
In front of nearly two thousand fans, both teams contributed to what was a thrilling game of Ice Hockey, but it was Leeds who will be the happier going into the reverse fixture this Sunday. Hull proved they can certainly compete with the top teams in the division though, level with Leeds mid-third period, and their 7-2 demolition of the Peterborough Phantoms before Christmas. It was the net-minders, Gospel and McLaughlin, who skated away with their respective teams man of the match awards as both produced some spectacular saves, particularly McLaughlin who faced 25 shots in the first period alone.
The Seahawks will head to Leeds this Sunday, before hosting the Sheffield Steeldogs next Wednesday evening at the Hull Ice Arena, looking to change their recent fortunes and restart the chase of the playoffs.