The late addition of defenceman Bow Neely was just one piece of good news Leeds Knights’ head coach Ryan Aldridge received on Friday regarding the back-end of his team.
The other came a while later when fellow blue liner and former team-mate of Neely, Bailey Perre, was also given the all-clear to play on the opening weekend double-header against his former club Bristol Pitbulls.
Just a couple of days earlier, things were looking grim for Aldridge with regard to his defensive options, with both Perre and import d-man Noah McMullin both expected to be missing.
Perre’s return – coupled with the addition of 19-year-old Neely – will be warmly welcomed by Aldridge, but the Knights’ boss will be desperate to get McMullin back into the fray as soon as possible.
The new face who joined Friday’s practice session at Elland Road Ice Arena ahead of today’s trip to Bristol is no stranger to Aldridge, having played hunder him as his captain at the Okanagan Hockey Academy in 2019-2021.
It is a signing Aldridge had been working on for several weeks. Crucially, Neely is classed as British-trained.
"This is somebody we’ve been talking to for a while,” explained the Knights’ coach. “He played for me at Okanagan, he was my captain there and is a solid defenceman and just a great human being.
“He’s a solid hockey player and a solid person and again, will be good for our locker room and our line-up. I’m just looking forward to getting him on the ice.”
After his time under Aldridge at Okanagan, where he played alongside Perre and Knights’ forward Oli Endicott, Neely – born and raised in Calgary – headed to the sister academy in Austria for the 2021-22 season.
Last season saw him return to North America to play for Massachusetts-based South Shore Kings in the National Collegiate Development Conference, part of the United States Premier Hockey League (USPHL).
“He’s a great skater, closes the gap – he plays exactly how I like my D-men to play and to get him in at this point in the season is massive for us.
“It gives us more options at the back-end as we need more depth there and I’ve been planning on him coming in for the last 6-8 weeks and to finally to get it over the line is great. He’s going to be a top defenceman for us, I’m sure.”