Whitley Warriors registered their third successive derby win of December with a 9-0 home victory over Billingham Stars on Sunday evening.
Taking to the ice without forwards Callum Watson and Ross Douglass, left winger Rob Farmer and youngsters Matthew Betham and Connor Lewis, Whitley opted for Latvian Rihards Grigors in place of Czech Matěj Valíček once again, the side lining up with eighteen skaters in addition to playing netminder Dean Bowater between the pipes. By comparison, Billingham made the short trip with sixteen skaters, though forward Callum Wilkinson and defenceman Lennon Thomas were amongst the six names on the Stars’ absentee list on this occasion.
After Billingham enjoyed some possession in the very early stages of the first period, the Stars were placed on a penalty kill with less than fifty seconds played when forward Shaun Galloway was penalised for high sticks. Beginning to create chances, Whitley came close to opening the scoring when Latvian Rolands Gritāns skated in front of Thomas Brown’s net to try a wraparound. Quick passing play between Captain Dean Holland and Rihards Grigors looked like it would give the Warriors their first goal but it was not to be. Instead the deadlock was broken when defenceman Harry Harley played the puck diagonally across Whitley’s offensive zone to forward Callum Queenan who was perfectly placed to tap in glove side on 7:10. The score line 1-0, the Warriors hunted down a second goal and it arrived just over four minutes later when Gritāns teamed up with experienced forward Shaun Kippin to pick out defenceman Steven Chalmers whose long range shot rocketed beyond Brown to double Billingham’s deficit on 11:45. In striving for a third goal, Holland came close once again, trying to bury his rebounded shot whilst falling to the ice and tempers subsequently simmered between Rihards Grigors and forward Lewis Hall in response to ‘D’ man Benjamin Greenhalgh’s attempts to defend his net. The Warriors bounced back from this missed chance with a third goal in the final two minutes of the period, Chalmers bagging his brace after receiving the puck from defensive partner Adam Wood to fire past Brown on 18:25, presenting Whitley with a 3-0 lead at the first interval.
On returning to the ice, Billingham opted for a change of netminder with the introduction of Jacob Hammond in place of Brown. Whitley resumed their attacking play from the outset, striving to find a way past their opposition whilst the Stars looked for chances on the breakaway, sixteen-year-old Finley Bradon attempting to get a shot away but to no avail. Appearing particularly composed on the puck, Wood sought to link up with his teammates as Whitley focused on extending their lead, the side achieving this feat just before the midpoint of the game as Rihards Grigors skated into Billingham’s defensive zone after requesting the puck from Queenan and, though temporarily deviating to the boards, passed to Holland who seized his opportunity to net on 29:53. As Billingham looked to counter, defenceman Matty McDonald was dealt a penalty for delaying the game on 35:04 to provide the Stars with a power play. However, possession soon fell to Whitley as Harley pounced on the puck to go on the breakaway but the Warrior could not execute. Eighty six seconds after Whitley’s return to full strength, Star Joseph Walls was punished for a tripping offence and, although unable to make this count, the home team remained in control with their comfortable 4-0 lead before heading in at the second break.
With both teams battling for the puck in the opening minutes of the period, neither team were able to get onto the scoresheet. Forward Chris Sykes was then involved in a confrontation with defenceman Dylan Hehir before breaking away with the puck moments later to bear down on Bowater’s net, prompting Hehir to trip the Star and find himself sinbinned on 45:21. Unable to make the most of their advantage, Billingham struggled to significantly test Bowater and the Warriors began to surge forwards after the fifty-minute mark, Hehir carrying the puck into Whitley’s offensive zone before unleashing a shot at Hammond, allowing versatile Warrior Kyle Ross to sneak the loose puck past the netminder on 51:22, Alternate Captain Jordan Barnes also assisting. Just over a minute later, forward Adam Finlinson took control of the puck at the boards before skating an arc through Billingham’s defence to bury a shot, making it 6-0. Fully in control as the period wound down, the Warriors netted three goals in fifty seconds: forward Shaun Kippin put the puck past Hammond on 56:04 after Gritāns’ attempt missed its mark; a long range effort from defenceman Craig Johnson made it 8-0 and Holland slotted home on 56:54 to quickly complete the scoring with support from Rihards Grigors and Queenan. The final moments of the game saw the Warriors striving to take the score line into double figures but Billingham’s defence prevented this feat to see the final buzzer confirm Whitley’s 9-0 win and second successive shutout against the Teesside outfit.
Shots on goal
Dean Holland (2+1), Steven Chalmers (2+0), Shaun Kippin (1+2), Adam Finlinson (1+2), Callum Queenan (1+1), Craig Johnson (1+0), Kyle Ross (1+0), Rolands Gritāns (0+3), Adam Wood (0+2), Rihards Grigors (0+2), Dylan Hehir (0+1), Jordan Barnes (0+1), Harry Harley (0+1)
Man of the Match
Warriors: Matty McDonald
Stars: Joseph Walls