Whitley Warriors suffered a heavy 9-0 defeat to fellow title contenders Solway Sharks at Whitley Bay Ice Rink on Sunday evening.
Lining up with sixteen skaters at their disposal as forward Callum Watson made his return, the Warriors opted for Latvian import Rihards Grigors over Czech Matěj Valíček whilst their absentee list included defencemen Craig Johnson and Matty McDonald, forwards Ross Douglass and Niall Ryder, and youngster Connor Lewis. By comparison, Solway travelled with twenty skaters, their line-up including Slovakian Peter Gápa, experienced forward Iain Bowie and new signing seventeen-year-old Mackenzie Stewart.
Solway made the best possible start to the first period as forward Callum Boyd beat netminder Dean Bowater blocker side to make it 1-0 just twenty three seconds into the contest after receiving the puck from Gápa to stun the home team. Seeking a quick response, the Warriors attempted to trouble shot stopper Jordan McLaughlin with their second line of Captain Dean Holland, forward Callum Queenan and Grigors but, despite some early pressure on the Sharks’ net, Whitley could not equalise and paid the price on 4:18 when Bowie swept the puck home after claiming possession from a rebounded shot to double his team’s tally. A hooking penalty for utility player Kyle Ross just past the midpoint of the period made matters worse for the Warriors who conceded a power play goal nine seconds later, this time forward Richard Bentham striking the target after build up play from left winger Steven Moore and Bowie. The score line 3-0 and the game getting away from Whitley, Head Coach David Longstaff opted for a change of netminder, switching Bowater for shot stopper Josh Crane. The Warriors worked hard to create some chances of their own with forward Adam Finlinson coming close to tapping beyond McLaughlin who made the save. However, Solway soon reclaimed possession to cause Whitley further problems in their defensive zone, Captain Struan Tonnar stepping past Latvian Rolands Gritāns to unleash a shot which took Solway’s tally to four on 15:49, Bowie and Moore assisting. As the period wound down, the Warriors sought a foothold in the contest and put McLaughlin to the test once more but, as their opposition pounced on the puck and looked to breakaway, Alternate Captain Jordan Barnes tripped his opponent to place Whitley on the penalty kill on 19:46, leaving the home team shorthanded when they returned for the second period.
Shortly after Whitley returned to full strength in the second minute of the middle stanza, the Sharks picked up their first penalty of the game as Bentham was sidelined for hooking on 21:55. Though attempting to make the most of their additional skater, the Warriors could not add to the scoreboard and their frustration began to show when forward Shaun Kippin believed officials had missed Alternate Captain Ross Murray’s slashing offence and made them aware, picking up a minor misconduct penalty in the process. With Solway showing no signs of losing momentum, Bowie grabbed his second goal of the game on 27:36 to make it 5-0 after a pass from diligent defenceman Liam Stenton from behind Crane’s net. Thirty seconds later, Gritāns was punished for a slashing offence and though Whitley kept the Sharks out when on the penalty kill, Solway claimed their sixth goal on 32:53 as forward Kieran Hair netted from close range, Scott Crane assisting after seizing possession from defenceman Harry Harley. Holland tried to get his team back into the game at the other end of the ice but his retaliation to Solway’s defence of his attempt resulted in a two-minute roughing penalty on 33:15. Unsurprisingly, Solway made it 7-0 on the power play, this time defenceman Stuart Kerr the man on target with a long range shot after build up play from Boyd and Bentham, prompting a timeout from the home team. Just fifteen seconds after this team talk, Kippin took his captain’s spot in the sin bin for the same offence after clashing with the visitors. A second successive power play goal followed for Martin Grubb’s well-drilled team, Stenton deservingly collecting his side’s eighth goal on 34:41 after weaving past blue liner Steven Chalmers to find the net. With Solway continuing to apply pressure to Whitley’s defence, the game soon became fiery once again as versatile defenceman Adam Wood clashed with forward Scott Henderson and proceeded to throw punches at the Shark to incur a five-minute fighting penalty on 35:03. Twenty eight seconds later, new signing Stewart made his mark on the game by beating Crane blocker side after some frantic defending from the Warriors, taking the score line to 9-0. With play fast and tempers rising, the final minute of the second period saw Holland dealt a match penalty for a check to the head against Hair and a subsequent game misconduct penalty for snapping his opponent’s stick with his skate in response.
Returning for the third period, the Warriors were resigned to their defeat and took the opportunity to allow hardworking forwards Anthony Wetherell, Thomas Fraser and Jamie Ord some ice time as they sought to prevent Solway’s shutout. The Warriors came close to opening their account in the early stages of the period when Kippin hit the metalwork and the outfit also failed to capitalise on the power play following Bentham’s second hooking penalty of the evening on 41:55. A high sticks penalty against Watson on 43:37 soon handed Solway an advantage but the Warriors worked hard to prevent the visitors from taking the score line into double figures. A tripping penalty for forward Ruairi Lockerbie just past the midpoint of the period gave Whitley another power play opportunity but the Warriors’ first goal continued to elude them. Working with Wetherell and Fraser, Ross struck the underside of the bar and later, in attempting to trouble his opposition in the final minute of the game, was slashed by Boyd who was sidelined for his misdemeanour. Ending the game with possession, the Warriors ran out of time in their search for a goal to leave the score line at 9-0 in Solway’s favour, this result meaning the Sharks have created a four-point gap between themselves and Whitley at the top of NIHL North 1.
Shots on goal
Iain Bowie (2+2), Richard Bentham (1+2), Stuart Kerr (1+1), Liam Stenton (1+1), Callum Boyd (1+1), Mackenzie Stewart (1+0), Kieran Hair (1+0), Struan Tonnar (1+0), Peter Gápa (0+2), Steven Moore (0+2), Lewis Houston (0+1), Scott Crane (0+1), Scott Henderson (0+1)
Man of the Match
Warriors: Jordan Barnes
Sharks: Jordan McLaughlin