Whitley Warriors slumped to their fourth defeat in five games last weekend as Blackburn Hawks quickly made amends for their defeat on Tyneside a week earlier.
Whitley were without forwards Callum Queenan, Steven Chalmers, Ross Douglass and Thomas Fraser while defencemen Harry Harley, Rihards Grigors and Liam Smedley also missed out.
Jamie Ord and Jay Lucas returned from injury, while Czech student Matej Valicek featured as the second import.
Youngsters Lennon Thomas and Owen Yarrow both made the trip across the pennines for their second games for the club.
With so many players missing, especially on the blue line, it was perhaps always going to be tough against a vastly improving Hawks side. Blackburn has never been an easy venue to play at and the Warriors suffered a defeat on their first visit there last season too.
With Adam Finlinson in the box serving a tripping penalty it allowed the home side to take the lead on the powerplay, James Riddoch netting from Jacob Lutwyche and Luke Watson. Whitley would just shade the period though, outshooting their hosts 11-7.
It was more of the same in the second period as the Warriors once again edged it in shots 12-5. However, clear-cut chances were at a premium and it was always going to be difficult to replicate the number of goals the two sides combined for a week earlier.
Whitley did work hard to get back onto level terms though and at 32:58 Dean Holland equalised from Phil Edgar.
The third period played out in much the same vein as the previous two, with the Warriors outshooting the Hawks, this time 13-6. But they were left feeling frustrated as the crucial winning goal failed to arrive.
With a little over three minutes left in the game the Warriors were given a great opportunity to claim the victory when Matthew Cross was called for tripping. However, the late powerplay opportunity, just their third man advantage of the game, couldn’t have started any worse when Ethan Mayoh shocked the Warriors with a shorthanded goal.
A goal so late in a game of so very few chances looked to have settled matters but two seconds after the Hawks returned to full strength the Warriors equalised, Adam Finlinson scoring what proved to be an important leveller from Adam Wood and Dean Holland.
With no further goals in the remaining moments it meant both teams were awarded a point and headed to 3-on-3 overtime. With all that extra ice to work with on the large surface it was a golden opportunity for one of the sides to claim victory, Whitley creating five chances to the Hawks’ two. But once again Alex Oldale was proving difficult to score against and so it needed penalties to separate the sides, Warriors failing to score as Oldale stopped two of the efforts. With a point dropped, that hands the advantage back to Solway in the race for this season’s title.
On a positive note, the point gained from the game confirmed the Warriors’ semi-final berth in the NIHL Cup.
Warriors: Dean Holland (1+1), Adam Finlinson (1+0), Phil Edgar (0+1), Adam Wood (0+1).
Hawks: James Riddoch (1+0), Ethan Mayoh (1+0), Jacob Lutwyche (0+1), Luke Watson (0+1).
Man of the Match
Warriors: Phil Edgar
Hawks: Alex Oldale