Whitley Warriors bounced back from last weekend’s heavy defeat with a 3-0 win over Solihull Barons at Whitley Bay Ice Rink on Sunday evening.
With both defencemen Craig Johnson and Matty McDonald returning to Whitley’s line-up, and youngsters Connor Lewis and Matthew Betham available for this encounter, the Warriors had twenty skaters at their disposal, though the side were without suspended Captain Dean Holland. Meanwhile, the Barons travelled with seventeen players in total, including Swedish import Niklas Ottosson, top goal scorer Thomas Soar and starting netminder Sam Hewitt.
Beginning the first period, the Warriors immediately set out to put Hewitt to the test, the best of their early chances arising when defenceman Steven Chalmers shot in the slot to force a save from the netminder. Johnson also had an opportunity to open the scoring when his rebounded shot found its way back to him and, after scrambling to get a second shot away, was then presented with a third opportunity to find the target but to no avail. The Barons soon began to see more of possession, forcing successive icings from the home team. At the other end of the ice, Latvian Rolands Gritāns danced his way through the Barons’ defence, trying to outsmart the visitors without success whilst his fellow countryman Rihards Grigors set his sights on goal on more than one occasion but was unable to find the target. Seeking to put his team ahead once more, Chalmers drove the puck behind Hewitt but could not sneak it over the line, leaving the deadlock intact. Taking heart from this, Grigors tried to get a shot away but the puck flew high into the netting behind Hewitt’s goal. Shortly afterwards, Gritāns’ skill won out, the Latvian dispossessing his opponent before skating from the left of the Barons’ net and rounding Hewitt to open the scoring on 17:41, giving Whitley a narrow 1-0 lead as they headed into the second period.
Returning to the ice for the middle stanza, the Warriors resumed their attacking play and it appeared that they had doubled their tally when stand-in Captain Shaun Kippin hit the puck at Hewitt from an acute angle, the goal light flicking on only for Referee David Emmerson to confirm the netminder’s save. Applying further pressure to Hewitt’s net, the Warriors searched for a second goal, though the Barons were not without their own chances. In recovering the puck from his opposition, Grigors rushed up the ice and fired at the target, only for Captain Marcus Maynard to collide with him, thereby squashing his chance. Taking exception to this, Grigors exchanged words with the Baron whilst Solihull progressed into Whitley’s defensive zone and bore down on netminder Dean Bowater’s net with a view to level the scoring. Soon after, Solihull came close to equalising when left winger Ashley Calvert struck the puck at Bowater’s mask. This was followed by some neat linkup play between import Ottosson and forward Philip Mulcahy who tested Bowater moments later, the shot stopper working with his defence to see off this attack. In the latter stages of the period, Gritāns strove to loop the puck over Hewitt but missed his mark and the Baron saved another effort from Grigors before the second interval to ensure this period remained goalless.
Heading out for the third period, the Warriors picked up the pace as forward Callum Watson received the puck from blue liner Dylan Hehir just outside of his own defensive zone to weave a path through the Barons’ defence and bury the puck top shelf, doubling Whitley’s lead just thirty seven seconds into the final stanza, Kippin also assisting. With the comfort of a second goal, Whitley sought to add to their tally, Gritāns looking for his second of the game whilst forward Adam Finlinson had a chance to grab Whitley’s third, driving forwards in possession to unleash a shot which Hewitt saved. Defenceman Chalmers shot from distance before later bearing down on Hewitt’s net with determination to find himself a fraction away from extending Whitley’s lead. Whilst battling for the puck along the boards, Grigors incurred a holding penalty on 53:24 and the Barons opted for a timeout prior to their power play. When play resumed however, Bowater pulled off some important saves to maintain his shutout and Whitley’s defence remained resolute, clearing their defensive zone time and again to ensure they did not concede whilst on the penalty kill. Building momentum from this positive passage of play, the Warriors went on the attack and it was not long before the side achieved their third goal of the evening, this time defenceman Harry Harley finding hardworking forward Jamie Ord who carried the puck into Whitley’s offensive zone before unleashing a shot and netting the rebound on 57:32 to add to Solihull’s troubles. In the final moments of the game, Betham and Lewis were granted ice time and were immediately involved in the action, Betham firing at Hewitt to find himself unlucky not be on the scoresheet. As play came to a close, Whitley collected two points from their 3-0 victory and their third shutout of the season.
Shots on goal
Rolands Gritāns (1+0), Callum Watson (1+0), Jamie Ord (1+0), Shaun Kippin (0+1), Dylan Hehir (0+1), Harry Harley (0+1)
Man of the Match
Warriors: Callum Watson
Barons: Sam Hewitt