Whitley Warriors suffered a 3-0 defeat to Dundee Comets in the NIHL Moralee Cup on Saturday before returning to NIHL North 1 league action with a 4-3 home win against Solihull Barons on Sunday evening.
Though again without left winger Rob Farmer, defenceman Craig Johnson, forwards Ross Douglass, Adam Finlinson and Niall Ryder, and youngster Connor Lewis, Whitley Warriors made the trip with sixteen skaters and were bolstered by the presence of Latvian defenceman Rihards Grigors, although the team also travelled with just one netminder in the form of shot stopper Joshua Crane. Likewise, Dundee had sixteen skaters at their disposal, their line-up including Captain Billy Baxter, Finnish netminder Toni Tammi and experienced forwards John Dolan and Joel Gautschi.
With the first period underway, it quickly became apparent that the Warriors had made some alterations to their lines with ice time given to forwards Anthony Wetherell, Jamie Ord and Thomas Fraser in the early stages of the contest whilst new signing Grigors lined up with utility player Adam Wood on the blue line. In the opening stages, Captain Dean Holland attempted to slot home but a kick save from netminder Tammi prevented the Warriors from edging ahead of the Comets. Versatile Warrior Kyle Ross and forward Callum Watson both came close soon after but could not break the deadlock and a chance soon fell to Dundee as Gautschi’s one timer was saved by Crane after a three-on-two breakaway in Whitley’s defensive zone. Just before the midpoint of the period, Alternate Captain Sean Beattie handed the Warriors a power play after a late hit on Ord and eighty one seconds later, Whitley found themselves with a 5-on-3 advantage as right winger Cameron Hamill served a two minute penalty for too many men on 10:31. Though striking the post, Whitley were unable to beat Tammi and they soon found themselves on a penalty kill when Holland was punished for a slashing offence on 15:59. Dundee made the most of their power play, capitalising twelve seconds before Holland’s penalty terminated, Gautschi opening his team’s account by looping the puck over Crane on 17:47. Forward Jonathan McBean set his sights on goal as the period wound down but an interception from Crane kept the score line at 1-0 going into the first interval.
Spurred on by their 1-0 lead, Dundee continued to test Crane and McBean tried his luck from the slot but his effort was stopped by the netminder once again. Whitley were soon countering the Comets’ attacking play in a bid to get back into the game, forward Callum Queenan hitting the bar with a swerving shot from an acute angle. Holland then collected the puck to fire at Tammi whose kick save prevented the captain from equalising and it was not long after that defenceman Steven Chalmers hit the post. Dundee had a chance when McBean struck the puck goalwards after receiving a pass from Dolan and, though missing this opportunity to double his team’s tally, the Comets gained a 2-0 lead moments later when the duo teamed up again on 35:50, McBean scuttling the puck past Crane on this occasion. An interference call against Holland less than two minutes later saw the Warriors spend the latter stages of the period on the penalty kill but they managed to clear their zone effectively to ensure their two-goal deficit did not increase before the second break.
The third period brought about a change of defensive pairing with Wood playing alongside blue liner Matty McDonald as opposed to Grigors. A hooking penalty for right winger Michael Ireland on 42:21 presented Whitley with the chance to get back on track and they found themselves on another 5-on-3 power play seventy seven seconds later when Captain Baxter was punished for crosschecking. Despite this, the Warriors failed to make their advantage count and Dundee followed their effective penalty kill with further attacking play, this time Dolan striking the post. Whitley were placed on the back foot once again when Wood was sidelined for interference just after the midpoint of the period. Forty three seconds later, Dolan unleashed a shot to add a third goal to his side’s tally, Beattie assisting alongside McBean on this occasion. The Warriors then gained a power play twenty eight seconds later when Ireland was sinbinned for delaying the game and Kippin claimed possession to fire at Tammi but saw his shot saved. With Whitley struggling for a foothold in the contest, their situation was made worse by a bench minor for icing too many men which was served by Wetherell. The Warriors worked to kill this penalty and returned to full strength with the hope of beating Tammi but a goal did not materialise, leaving the side to see out their 3-0 defeat.
Shots on goal
Jonathan McBean (1+1), John Dolan (1+1), Joel Gautschi (1+0), Sean Beattie (0+1), Lewis McIntosh (0+1)
Whitley Warriors returned home to play host to Solihull Barons on Sunday evening. Again, the Hillheads outfit were missing some key players in Rob Farmer, Adam Finlinson and Niall Ryder whilst Czech Matěj Valíček was also on the absentee list due to the inclusion of Latvian imports Rihards Grigors and Rolands Gritāns. Meanwhile, the Barons were similarly without some influential skaters in defenceman Daniel Harrison, forward Matthew Maurice and Swedish import Niklas Ottosson to name but a few.
The Warriors made a positive start to the first period, forward Callum Queenan attempting a wraparound which he was unable to turn past sturdy netminder Sam Hewitt. Captain Dean Holland then came close as he skated into the slot, temporarily losing possession before finding Queenan who spun to fire, the puck eluding the target once more. After some perseverance, the Warriors opened the scoring with a well-worked goal in which Gritāns carried the puck into Solihull’s defensive zone at speed before playing a superb pass to Alternate Captain Jordan Barnes who tapped home to make it 1-0 on 5:32. Less than three minutes later, the Barons got back on track after Alternate Captain Daniel Mulcahy broke away from the Warriors’ defence before playing the puck across to forward Thomas Soar who did not miss his mark on 8:08. Shortly afterwards, a hooking penalty for versatile Warrior Kyle Ross placed Whitley on the penalty kill and shot stopper Richie Lawson pulled off a series of outstanding saves to ensure the score line was not altered before his team returned to full strength on 15:24. Within the final two minutes of this period, Ross was penalised for a tripping misdemeanour but just thirteen seconds later, he was joined in the sin bin by Solihull’s Player-Coach Callum Bowley who was dealt a hooking penalty. With this penalty levelling the playing field for the Warriors, Gritāns almost edged his team into the lead before the break but was unable to beat Hewitt to leave the score line at 1-1 at the end of the first period.
After Ross’ return to the ice in the first minute of the middle stanza, Whitley had a thirteen second power play and, though unable to score on this short advantage, the Warriors began to create chances in Solihull’s offensive zone whilst striving to maintain possession along the boards as the Barons equally battled for the puck. Building on this play, Whitley struck again on 28:26 as Steven Chalmers’ shot from distance was scrambled into the net by Gritāns, Queenan also assisting. The Barons did not take too long to achieve a second equaliser however, this time Daniel Mulcahy bundling the puck past Lawson for 2-2 on 32:13 after defenceman Andrew Hayward’s long range shot. Disappointed to have conceded this second goal, the Warriors retaliated just over two minutes later when Holland showed strength to hold off his opponent whilst maintaining control of the puck to strike past Hewitt on 34:51, giving his team a 3-2 lead with assists from forward Shaun Kippin and defenceman Harry Harley. The period then ended with the Warriors on the penalty kill as Ross picked up a holding penalty in the final minute but Lawson made an important double save to preserve the Warriors’ one-goal lead.
Whitley played the first minute of the third period with four men as a result of Ross’ penalty but effectively cleared their lines to ensure they did not concede a power play goal. Both teams sought chances to capitalise but the momentum remained with the Warriors who looked to add to the scoreboard. Gritāns attempted to tap home a shot fired in from Queenan but Hewitt pounced on the puck to prevent the Latvian from nabbing his second of the game and defenceman Chalmers also tried to carve out an opportunity for his team, having been switched from a defensive role to play forward, but he could not find the net. With Whitley having the greater share of chances in this period, the side were pleased to finally achieve their fourth goal of the game which was delivered unassisted by defenceman Craig Johnson from just inside of the blue line on 54:45. With the Warriors’ building their attacking play, defenceman Bailey Challans resorted to clipping to halt Whitley’s creativity on 54:57, resulting in a power play for the home team. Try as they might, David Longstaff’s side could not make their advantage count, with Hewitt producing some excellent saves to keep his team in the game. Shortly after returning to full strength, the visitors called a timeout to discuss the best way to proceed and subsequently reduced their deficit to a single goal with twenty seconds remaining, defenceman Jordan Stokes firing past Lawson to make it 4-3 assisted by forward James Smith. Though readying themselves to pull their netminder in place of the additional skater, the moment never arose for the Barons as Whitley gained possession and whittled away the seconds, the clock eventually calling time on their 4-3 victory.
Shots on goal
Rolands Gritāns (1+1), Jordan Barnes (1+0), Dean Holland (1+0), Craig Johnson (1+0), Shaun Kippin (0+1), Harry Harley (0+1), Steven Chalmers (0+1), Callum Queenan (0+1)
Daniel Mulcahy (1+1), Thomas Soar (1+0), Jordan Stokes (1+0), Philip Mulcahy (0+1), James Smith (0+1), Andrew Hayward (0+1)
Man of the Match
Warriors: Richie Lawson
Barons: Sam Hewitt