Whitley Warriors achieved an 8-2 win over Widnes Wild at Whitley Bay Ice Rink on Sunday evening.
Lining up with sixteen skaters and starting netminder Dean Bowater, the Warriors were without defenceman Craig Johnson, suspended Captain Dean Holland and forwards Niall Ryder and Adam Finlinson whilst opting for Latvian defenceman Rihards Grigors over Czech forward Matěj Valíček. Meanwhile, Widnes made the trip with seventeen players, including Player-Coach Richard Haggar, Latvian Vladislavs Vulkanovs and shot stopper Harrison Walker.
Whitley began the first period at speed in search of the opening goal of the game, immediately piling the pressure onto Widnes whilst the visitors sought a breakaway opportunity through German forward Daniel Haid. With this chance quashed, the Warriors persisted in their attacking play and began to enjoy lengthy spells in their offensive zone, forcing the Wild to frequently ice the puck. As such, Whitley went ahead through forward Callum Queenan on 5:30, the forward racing down the wing and cutting inside to neatly pick out Callum Watson who returned a pass, allowing him to tap home. Encouraged by their 1-0 lead, the Warriors continued to challenge Walker who withstood their onslaught; Latvian Rolands Gritāns danced his way through the Wild’s defence to no avail, Grigors pushed forward with a view to striking the target but his effort was halted and utility player Kyle Ross battled for possession in the corners to skilfully take control of the puck prior to unleashing an unsuccessful shot. Playing in a forward role once again, Steven Chalmers determinedly cut a path towards Walker’s net but his attempt was saved. As the period wound to a close, utility defenceman Adam Wood flashed a lightning bolt of a shot towards goal but it rebounded off the boards to leave the score line at 1-0 to Whitley at the first interval.
Returning for the middle section of the game, the Warriors realised their need to be more clinical in front of the net and took just sixty nine seconds to double their lead as Chalmers tipped in a long range shot from defenceman Harry Harley, Alternate Captain Jordan Barnes also assisting. Just over five minutes later, Whitley added a third goal to Widnes’ deficit as Chalmers collected his second of the game, this time skating at speed into his offensive zone to rocket a shot past Walker after receiving the puck from sturdy defenceman Matty McDonald on 26:21. Unrelenting, Whitley reaped the rewards of their creativity just over two minutes later as Ross intelligently feigned to skate around the back of Walker’s net to fool the netminder into moving away from his left post, freeing up space for him to stab the puck over the line on 28:37, Gritāns and McDonald assisting. A tripping misdemeanour from Barnes placed Whitley on the first penalty kill of the game and the visitors capitalised eighty seconds into their advantage as Vulkanovs rustled the puck home at the back post on 33:31 after build-up play from Player-Coach Haggar and forward Matthew Barlow, making it 4-1. Just over a minute later, Haggar’s effort fell behind Bowater after the Warrior’s initial save and Haid saw his chance to net, tapping the puck over the line to halve his team’s deficit on 34:58. Disappointed with the nature of this goal, the Warriors sprang into action at the other end of the ice forty seven seconds later as Watson linked up with Gritāns who flicked the puck into the net off the post to restore his team’s three-goal cushion. A hooking penalty for stand-in Captain Shaun Kippin on 37:13 seemingly put Whitley on the back foot again but, keen to avoid a repeat of their earlier penalty kill, the Warriors pushed possession into the Wild’s defensive zone. Battling in the corner, Queenan won the puck from defenceman Chris Wilcox and rapidly turned assist for Gritāns who fired past Walker on 39:01, his shorthanded goal bringing the score line to 6-2 ahead of the final period.
Heading out for the third stanza, the Warriors were keen to add to their goal count and Grigors continued to persevere, challenging for the puck along the boards before trying to get a shot away, though without success. Chalmers proved a threat in front of the net once again and Watson linked up well with Queenan and Gritāns but Walker pulled off some strong saves between the pipes to prevent Whitley’s early chances. Try as he might however, Walker could not halt the home team’s seventh goal as Gritāns secured his hat-trick on 47:18, striking the puck into the net after receiving a pass in space from Queenan, Watson also assisting. Chalmers came incredibly close to achieving his hat-trick, having repeated chances after firing the puck at Walker and collecting his successive rebounded shots, only to miss his intended target. With increased ice time for youngster Matthew Betham and forwards Ross Douglass and Thomas Fraser in this period, the trio strove for an eighth goal as the game drew to a close but it was eventually delivered with forty four seconds remaining as Gritāns collected a fourth consecutive goal, carrying the puck towards Walker before faking a shot to clip home a backhanded effort in style to complete the 8-2 score line.
Shots on goal
Rolands Gritāns (4+1), Steven Chalmers (2+0), Callum Queenan (1+2), Kyle Ross (1+0), Callum Watson (0+4), Matthew McDonald (0+2), Jordan Barnes (0+1), Adam Wood (0+1), Harry Harley (0+1)
Vladislavs Vulkanovs (1+0), Daniel Haid (1+0), Richard Haggar (0+2), Josh Reynolds (0+1), Matthew Barlow (0+1)
Man of the Match
Warriors: Rolands Gritāns
Wild: Vladislavs Vulkanovs