Warriors Shutout Stars

The Warriors put pressure on Billingham's net. Photo by Pyro-Media.

The Warriors and Stars battling for the puck at Hillheads in September. Photo by Pyro-Media.

Whitley Warriors achieved a 3-0 league win over local rivals Billingham Stars at The Forum on Sunday evening.

With left winger Rob Farmer, forward Callum Watson and youngster Thomas Fraser amongst those on Whitley’s absentee list, the Warriors lined up with eighteen skaters, bolstered by the return of utility player Adam Wood whilst opting for Latvian Rihards Grigors over Czech Matěj Valíček on this occasion. By comparison, the Stars had nineteen players in total, including Latvian defenceman Patriks Grigors, top points scorer Chris Sykes and promising forward Callum Wilkinson.

Taking to the ice for the first period, Whitley gradually began to build up possession in the opening stages of the game, starting with a line of Alternate Captain Jordan Barnes, youngster Matthew Betham and versatile Warrior Kyle Ross in front of defensive duo Harry Harley and Dylan Hehir. Increasing their attacking play, Whitley broke the deadlock on 5:35 when Latvian Rolands Gritāns’ rebounded shot fell to experienced forward Shaun Kippin who, in keeping the puck alive, found Harley to provide Adam Finlinson with the perfect opportunity to tap-in. Seeking an equalising goal in the aftermath, Sykes saw his chance stopped by netminder Dean Bowater. Meanwhile, the visitors were persistent in their efforts to put shot stopper Thomas Brown to the test, Captain Dean Holland working with forward Callum Queenan and import Rihards Grigors to find a second goal but without success. Whitley’s determination to double their lead eventually paid off on 14:10 when Ross played the puck from a faceoff in the Warriors’ offensive zone to defenceman Craig Johnson whose blue line shot zipped beyond Brown to make it 2-0. Sykes then followed this up with a shot of his own, Elder trying to sneak in the rebound but to no avail, meaning the Warriors headed in with their two-goal cushion intact.

On returning to the ice for the second period, Whitley opted to extend their lead but, despite their many chances, failed to capitalise against the Stars’ resolute defence. Forward Niall Ryder looked for a wraparound in the opening minutes of the period and Holland struck the bar as the Warriors began to dominate possession. Working hard in offence, Ross battled for the puck and youngster Betham looked for opportunities to play his teammates through on goal but, try as they might, the Warriors’ third goal continued to elude them. The Stars then began to carve out some chances of their own in the latter stages of the period but Sykes was unable to execute on the breakaway and Wilkinson believed that he had netted before the interval, his shot fizzing wide of its mark to leave the score line at 2-0. Though the game grew to be increasingly physical, it was only in the final minute of the second period that the first and last penalty call of the game was made, Patriks Grigors’ tripping misdemeanour in Whitley’s offensive zone placing his team on the penalty kill on their return to the ice.

As play got underway in the third period, Whitley struggled to make the most of their power play and Billingham returned to full strength unscathed, the side’s subsequent attack halted by defenceman Matty McDonald who regained control of possession for his team. With Whitley’s lead a futile one and the Stars seemingly sensing a way back into the contest, the Warriors were eager to put further distance between themselves and their local rivals and did so on 46:31 as McDonald played a pass to Rihards Grigors who danced his way past Billingham’s defencemen to drill the puck home, making it 3-0. Repeatedly, Finlinson and Gritāns teamed up in search of a goal but the Stars’ defence quashed their efforts, instead claiming the puck to try their luck on the breakaway which made play far more even than that of the previous two periods, this time Billingham having just one shot less on goal than their rivals. Ross strove to create a chance for his teammates but was unable to net and Barnes broke through the centre of Billingham’s defence but could not get his shot away before Brown collected the puck. At the other end of the ice, forward James Moss shot from the wing but Bowater made the save. The Stars also saw a deflected shot come close to preventing Whitley’s shutout but the puck trickled wide. With no further changes to the 3-0 score line, Whitley maintained their shutout and headed home with another two important points towards their league title campaign.


Shots on goal
Stars:         23
Warriors:  54

Adam Finlinson (1+0), Craig Johnson (1+0), Rihards Grigors (1+0), Matthew McDonald (0+1), Shaun Kippin (0+1), Kyle Ross (0+1), Harry Harley (0+1)

Penalty minutes
Stars:         2
Warriors:  0

Man of the Match
Stars:        Thomas Brown
Warriors: Dean Bowater