Whitley Warriors lost out on playoff silverware to Solway Sharks in the NIHL North 1 Moralee playoff final at Planet Ice Leeds, losing 5-2 to the league champions after defeating Solihull Barons 4-1 in Saturday’s semi-final.
Whilst boasting a strong line-up of eighteen skaters, Whitley found themselves without versatile defenceman Adam Wood and forward Callum Watson as they headed into Saturday’s semi-final against Solihull Barons in which they opted for netminder Josh Crane between the pipes. Meanwhile, Callum Bowley’s team matched the Warriors in number, the Barons’ line-up including Swedish import Niklas Ottosson, forward Thomas Soar and shot stoppers Sam Hewitt and Graham Laverick, with the latter starting in net for the outfit.
Shortly after play got underway in the first period, Barons’ forward Philip Mulcahy made way for tripping and the Warriors capitalised on their subsequent power play, experienced forward Shaun Kippin receiving the puck in the neutral zone before winding up a speculative long distance slap shot which sent the puck bobbling over Laverick’s glove and into the net on 5:58, defencemen Dylan Hehir and Harry Harley assisting. Encouraged by this, Harley doubled his team’s lead eighty two seconds later with a blue line shot and matters were made worse for the Barons when they were placed on a second successive penalty kill as a result of an interference call against Philip Mulcahy on 8:09. Despite this, the Barons worked hard to prevent Whitley from extending their lead and it was not long after that Solihull were granted a power play of their own on 10:52 but Whitley worked hard to keep Bowley’s men out. After returning to full strength with their two-goal cushion intact, the Warriors persisted in their efforts to find a third goal but could not add to their tally ahead of the first interval.
Returning for the second period, Whitley were keen to extend their lead and did so as Latvian defenceman Rihards Grigors’ rebounded blue line shot was pounced on by young forward Thomas Fraser on 25:41. Less than two minutes later, a slashing call went against Whitley to hand the Barons a power play but the Warriors remained resolute on their penalty kill to quash the threat posed by Solihull in this instance. However, David Longstaff’s men could not prevent their opposition from chipping away at their deficit in the thirty third minute as forward James Smith netted glove side from Bowley’s rebounded shot to make it 3-1. With the Barons spurred on by their foothold in the game, the side put netminder Crane under increasing pressure in this period but the Warrior withstood this to maintain his team’s two-goal lead going into the final twenty minutes.
Keen to increase the distance between themselves and Solihull in the third period, Whitley soon delivered a fourth goal as forward Callum Queenan picked up the loose puck to sneak it past Laverick blocker side on 42:29 after an effort from Harley. Just over four minutes later, the Warriors gained another power play as Barons’ Captain Marcus Maynard was sidelined for slashing but Solihull’s strong penalty kill kept the score line at 4-1. As the period progressed without further scoring, the Warriors gained a 5-on-3 power play when both Philip Mulcahy and defenceman Jordan Stokes were penalised for slashing sixty three seconds apart just after the halfway point in the period. Though the Barons wound down the clock to prevent Whitley from capitalising on the advantage, the final minutes of the game saw the Warriors hold onto their three-goal lead to progress to Sunday’s final against Solway Sharks.
Shots on goal
Harry Harley (1+1), Shaun Kippin (1+0), Thomas Fraser (1+0), Callum Queenan (1+0), Dylan Hehir (0+1), Rihards Grigors (0+1), Kyle Ross (0+1), Dean Holland (0+1), Jordan Barnes (0+1)
James Smith (1+0), Philip Mulcahy (0+1), Callum Bowley (0+1)
Man of the Match
Warriors: Josh Crane
Barons: Elliot Farrell
With the same players available to them as in Saturday’s semi-final, the Warriors lined up with eighteen skaters and starting netminder Josh Crane whilst Solway Sharks had two skaters less than Whitley whilst opting for Calum Hepburn between the pipes.
Shortly after facing off for the first period, Whitley gained a power play when Solway’s defenceman Liam Danskin received a penalty for delaying the game on 1:44 but the Warriors were unable to make this count. Subsequently, both teams battled fiercely for possession in their efforts to break the deadlock but, with neither side able to find a way past their respective netminders, the Warriors were pleased to gain a second power play when forward Ewan Anderson was punished for a slashing offence on 15:24. In spite of this, Whitley could not beat Hepburn whilst on the advantage to leave the score line at 0-0 when the team’s headed in at the first break.
On their return to the ice, Whitley found themselves under increasing pressure when Solway made the best possible start to open the scoring on 22:25, Anderson tapping in Slovakian left winger Peter Gápa’s rebound to make it 1-0. Despite gaining another power play courtesy of Rick Bentham’s charging penalty on 33:28, the Warriors could not make their additional skater count and were left to rue this missed opportunity when Lewis Houston beat Crane three minutes later after picking up Danskin’s deflected shot from the point in front of goal to give Solway a 2-0 lead ahead of the third period.
Heading out for the final twenty minutes of the contest, Whitley hoped to get back into the game but Anderson buried a rebound to score his second goal on 41:15 after forward Scott Henderson carried the puck through the neutral zone to put the Warriors’ defence to the test once again. A hooking penalty for forward Shaun Kippin saw Whitley go shorthanded on 43:09 and the Sharks capitalised through Boyd on a breakaway ninety eight seconds later, Bentham with the assist. The Warriors then pulled a goal back when forward Adam Finlinson opened his team’s account on 47:45 assisted by Alternate Captain Jordan Barnes and just fifteen seconds later, Whitley went on the power play when forward Gordon Horne picked up a hooking penalty on 48:00. Barnes utilised this opportunity to find the target, battling to get the puck past Hepburn after Harry Harley fired from the high slot, making it 4-2 to prompt a timeout for the Sharks. Striving to recover lost ground in the latter stages of the game, Whitley pulled Crane from his net but this allowed Solway the opportunity to grab an empty net goal as Anderson dispossessed Latvian Rihards Grigors to seal his hat-trick on 58:08. This goal completed Solway’s 5-2 win to see the Dumfries outfit crowned deserving NIHL North 1 Moralee playoff champions.
Ewan Anderson (3+0), Callum Boyd (1+1), Lewis Houston (1+0), Peter Gápa (0+1), Liam Danskin (0+1), Scott Henderson (0+1), Rick Bentham (0+1)
Jordan Barnes (1+1), Adam Finlinson (1+0), Harry Harley (0+1), Dean Holland (0+1), Shaun Kippin (0+1)
Man of the Match
Sharks: Calum Hepburn
Warriors: Jamie Ord