Whitley Warriors claimed two points from a 5-3 win over Sheffield Scimitars in NIHL North 1 league action at Whitley Bay Ice Rink on Sunday evening.
The Warriors took to the ice with nineteen skaters at their disposal whilst opting for netminder Dean Bowater between the pipes, the side missing forward Callum Watson, left winger Robert Farmer, on-loan Phil Edgar, youngster Connor Lewis and Czech Matěj Valíček who made way for Latvian defenceman Rihards Grigors. By comparison, the travelling Scimitars were shortbenched with only fourteen skaters available for the clash; Czech Vladimír Luka, Captain Warren Tait and nineteen-year-old Thomas Palmer amongst those making the trip.
The first period began with both teams seeing their fair share of chances, the Warriors trying to open the scoring through Latvian Rolands Gritāns who sought an early opportunity to beat netminder James Hadfield whilst Luka appeared a threat from the outset. Some quick play from Captain Dean Holland and forward Callum Queenan put Hadfield to the test as play unfolded before the Scimitars came close at the other end of the ice as forward Elliott Knell tried to get his team ahead. It was not until just past the halfway point of the period that Whitley took the lead, forward Adam Finlinson working with defenceman Craig Johnson to play the puck to Gritāns who broke through the centre of the Scimitars’ defensive zone, outsmarting Jamie Hovell before skilfully playing the puck through his own legs prior to tapping it past Hadfield to make it 1-0 on 11:05. Just eighty five seconds later, the Scimitars celebrated their equalising goal as Palmer netted a low shot following his rebounded effort after neat play from Luka and Tait in the build-up. Whitley worked to recover their lead as Grigors collected his rebounded shot only to see Hadfield make a second consecutive save. Holland then came close to slotting home before colliding with Alternate Captain Scott Morris which halted the Warriors’ spell of offensive play. Despite this setback, Whitley persisted in their hunt for a second goal and it was delivered thirty six seconds before the first interval when Gritāns turned assist for Finlinson who shot whilst off balance to give his side a 2-1 lead, forward Shaun Kippin also assisting.
On returning to the ice, the Warriors looked to add to their goal count but the Scimitars worked hard to counter, allowing for some end-to-end action. In the twenty fifth minute, Gritāns made a hit along the boards and returned to play just in time to tap in defenceman Harry Harley’s long range effort to give Whitley a welcome two-goal cushion on 24:09. Just over two minutes later, a tripping penalty was handed to forward Thomas Fraser but a slashing penalty for defenceman Steven Duncombe on 27:56 temporarily levelled the playing field and Fraser’s return allowed the Warriors a sixty-three-second power play. However, it was the visitors who ended up on the scoresheet with a shorthanded goal as Knell intercepted a misplaced pass to find Luka; the Czech carved a path towards Bowater’s right, collected the puck after his shot was saved and then, after looking for a wraparound without success, picked out defenceman Lloyd Gibson in the slot who fired past Bowater to make it 3-2 on 29:42. The Warriors hit back again shortly after the midpoint of the contest when Kippin struck the top shelf over Hadfield’s left shoulder, Finlinson and Gritāns assisting on 31:04. One minute later, defenceman Dylan Hehir was punished for hooking but, eleven seconds after returning to full strength unscathed, the Warriors gained a power play when Luka’s show of frustration earned him a two-minute misconduct penalty. After finding themselves unable to net on the power play, Whitley saw the period out on a penalty kill as Grigors was sidelined for holding on 37:34. Despite their advantage, the Scimitars equally could not make this count, leaving the score line at 4-2 as the sides headed in at the second break.
The Scimitars made the best possible start to the third period as Tait scrambled the puck past Bowater thirty nine seconds in to narrow the score line to 4-3, Luka collecting his third assist of the evening in the process. With just one goal separating the two sides, Whitley recognised the importance of extending their lead and thought they had a fifth goal when Finlinson’s shot bounced off the underside of the bar with forty eight minutes played but the puck was deemed not to have crossed the goal line. At the other end of the ice, Palmer, Luka and Tait posed a real threat so it was little surprise that the Scimitars outshot the Warriors by fourteen shots to eleven in this period. Defending against these chances, Whitley continued to play the puck forward but the metalwork saved the Scimitars again when Queenan struck the bar, his effort immediately waved off. It was not long after that the Warriors finally achieved a 5-3 lead, Queenan and Grigors working together to play in Holland who slotted past Hadfield on 55:31 to ensure his team could see out the remainder of the game more comfortably. With thirty nine seconds remaining, the Scimitars called a timeout but the Sheffield outfit were very much against the clock when play resumed, allowing Whitley to claim two points from their 5-3 victory when play was brought to a close.
Shots on goal
Rolands Gritāns (2+2), Adam Finlinson (1+2), Shaun Kippin (1+1), Dean Holland (1+0), Craig Johnson (0+1), Rihards Grigors (0+1), Harry Harley (0+1), Callum Queenan (0+1)
Warren Tait (1+1), Thomas Palmer (1+0), Lloyd Gibson (1+0), Vladimír Luka (0+3), Elliot Knell (0+1)
Man of the Match
Warriors: Rolands Gritāns
Scimitars: Lloyd Gibson