The Sheffield Knights were all stations go over the weekend just gone. It was a busy one on the calendar; a national qualifier to play on the Saturday, and a league game against the Division 3 leaders on the Sunday.
It was an early start for the Knights Tier 2 nationals squad, as they hit the rink for the first game of the day at the last Tier 2 national qualifiers this season. It was all to play for with the squad still pushing for a place in the Tier 2 National Finals, and the first game was Knights v Steelers.
The Steelers came out of the gates quickly, and the Knights found themselves behind early on. As the game entered the latter stages, the Steelers were up by 3 and the Knights squad knew that it was going to be a difficult hill to climb. Despite the task at hand the team pushed hard to cut the deficit, and a big slap shot from captain Ben Clarke found the back of the net and put the Knights up on the board. This injected more energy into the game and it wasn’t long before a turnover in the Steelers zone was converted by Joe Wait to cut the margin to 1. Unfortunately, the comeback that the Knights were so hungry for was not to be, and the final whistle went with the scoreboard showing 3-2 to the Steelers.
Next up for the Knights was the GB Under 16’s team, a game that the Knights knew they had to win to give themselves the best chances later on in the day. After some early pressure from the U16’s squad, the Sheffield side battled their way into the offensive zone and after a handful of chances, a wrist shot from Lewis Astill was rifled past the GB goalie to give the Knights a 1 goal lead. Going into the second period with a goal on the board, the Knights knew it was imperative to keep the play out of their zone and to keep their oppositions chances to a minimum. Both teams fought until the final whistle but Astill was the only player to find the scoresheet and the Knights came away with the win.
The final game in the group stages of the tournament was next, as the Knights faced off against the Nottingham Wolfpack. The Knights drew first blood in the game, as Michael Henderson’s shot found its way through the Nottingham net-minder. The Wolfpack kept fighting, and shortly after a show-stopping glove save from Knights goalie David Grant on a Dan Robertson slap shot, Robertson wound up again and found the bottom corner of the goal to tie up the game. Knights were not disheartened by the equalising goal however, and a quick chance for Adam Cookson was taken perfectly to give the Sheffield squad the lead again. The clock was ticking ever and ever closer to the final whistle, and the Knights fought hard to keep hold of the one goal lead. Unfortunately, a shot from the slot rebounded off Joe Wait’s leg pad as he committed to the block and into the roof of the net to tie the game once again. The remainder of the game continued to be cat and mouse, both teams creating chances for the win. Neither side was to score again however, and the game ended 2-2.
With the Knights sat in third place in the Group, the next game was to be the first meeting between the Knights and the Nottingham Titans. The Titans put on the pressure early, and after a couple of chances turned away by Grant, a big slap shot found the top corner to give the Nottingham side a 1 goal lead. Both sides battled hard, putting shots on both goals as the play moved back and forth between both attacking zones. A face-off in the Knights zone was taken perfectly by Titans’ Tom Link, who put a shot on goal from the face-off which found its way past Grant. The scoreboard showed 2-0 Titans. The Knights continued to battle and were not down and out yet. A fantastic play from Spike Butchart-Brown-Leng saw a back door chance for Adam Cookson, who buried his shot for his second goal of the day. The game was very much on, and the Sheffield side continued to press for chances in the Titans’ zone. It was all or nothing for the Knights, as they tried everything and anything to tie up the game. Sadly, it was to be disappointment however as a turnover was forced and capitalised upon to give the Titans a convincing 3-1 lead. Despite the tenacity and determination of the Knights, the game ended with the final score of 3-1.
The day was over in a bittersweet fashion for the Knights. They battled hard in every game and pushed to claw back a couple of times, even when facing a multi-goal deficit. Despite the resilience of the entire Knights squad, the quarter finals was the furthest they would go.
‘Absolutely everybody put everything they had into every game over the tournament, and we had a lot to be proud of over the day. We played some good sides, took our chances well and fought from the first to the last whistle every time. We were also the only side to beat the GB U16’s team [who won the tournament] which is a huge positive for us to take out of the day.’ – Ben Clarke, Knights Captain
Day 2 of the weekend, and it was the Spartans’ turn as they hit the road for league action against the Nottingham Vikings. The Vikings lead Division 3 in the Central Conference, and the Spartans knew they would be pulling out the stops to keep their undefeated status active.
The Vikings looked to establish themselves in the game early, just as the Spartans side expected, and as the whistle went for the end of the first period the scoreboard showed a 4-0 lead for the league leaders. The Spartans never gave up, and continued to push to create chances in the Vikings end and to keep the Nottingham side off of the scoresheet. The final whistle blew and the final score showed 19-0 to the home side.
‘There have been so many positives to take out of the game. Despite the scoreline, there wasn’t a single person on the Spartans bench playing the game with anything but determination and energy. There is a lot to be admired with this squad, every player played the game with heart and did the club proud.’ – David Grant, Head Coach
Coming up this weekend is another busy schedule for the club; the Knights take on Steelers Blue for the second time this season, and the Lancers Tier 3 nationals squad travel to Gateshead for the last Tier 3 national qualifiers of the season. Keep up to date via social media.
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