Warriors grab the points in cloudy encounter

Kyle Ross skips past Lions Jack Crowston and Owen Davis in less-than-ideal conditions

Kyle Ross skips past Lions Jack Crowston and Owen Davis in less-than-ideal conditions. Photo by Charlie Mood.

Whitley Warriors opened their 2023-24 NIHL Season at home on Sunday with a 5-1 win over Nottingham Lions.

Warriors went into the contest with a full complement of 20 skaters and two goalies. Dean Bowater got the start, while the defensive pairings were kept the same from last weekend against Billingham. Garry Simpson was unavailable so that meant Callum Queenan being promoted to the top line with Kyle Ross and Adam Finlinson. Ross Douglass joined Jamie Ord on Shaun Kippin’s line, while Anth Wetherell moved up to play alongside Olly King and Lewis Crisp. Owen Yarrow centred the fourth line with Matthew Betham and Jay Lucas, while Thomas Fraser made his seasonal debut after missing the games with the Stars last weekend. Adam Robinson was also included on the roster but his flight was delayed meaning he missed the start.

The opening period was played at a relatively slow tempo due to the stop start nature of the game. This was not helped by two lengthy stoppages as the players and officials had their visibility hindered. Unseasonably warm weather on Tyneside this week meant temperatures inside the rink also rose and as a consequence a thick layer of mist settled above the playing surface making it almost impossible for the players to see the action in front of them, not to mention for the two goaltenders to see the puck. However, in between stoppages the home side were able to make an early breakthrough. Harry Harley’s tip was seized upon by Callum Queenan who fed Adam Finlinson at the back door to open the scoring at 6:26.

But the Lions were back level just five minutes later when they were awarded a penalty shot. The visitors got in behind the Warriors’ defence and Owen Yarrow, who had done well to get back and help out, took one for the team when he held back a Lions forward as he was about to shoot. Canadian import and Lions top scorer for the past two seasons, Zach Yokoyama, duly dispatched the resulting penalty after delaying his shot and forcing Dean Bowater to commit before slotting home into the bottom corner.

The Lions were buoyant having got back onto level terms and could have gone ahead less than a minute later. Bowater was forced into another save that also required Liam Smedley to make a well-timed clearance from the low slot. Having seen off that particular scare, the Warriors composed themselves and would end the period with the lead. Just 17 seconds remained in the session when Anth Wetherell scored an early contender for goal of the season. The forward let fly from distance following a good cut back to the point from captain Shaun Kippin.

The second period started at a much better pace and the Warriors were 3-1 up five minutes in. Jay Lucas scored his first senior goal when he collected the puck on the half volley and steered it into the bottom corner of the net. That followed a huge deflection after Olly King and Matthew Betham were involved in the build-up. It was a huge relief to the goal scorer who had a seemingly perfectly good goal disallowed last season against Blackburn Hawks.
King’s assist was his first point in a Warriors jersey.

Chances were still being created by both sides but Nottingham would be thankful to their goalie Luca Sheldon who kept his team in it with a series of impressive saves, none more so than with three minutes left in the period, making a double kick save to deny Callum Queenan. But with just 34 seconds remaining in the session, Whitley netted another late goal. It would be Queenan who did eventually get the goal his play deserved. Kyle Pow’s shot from the point, direct from a face-off in the offensive zone found Queenan, whose quick hands enabled him to steer home into the net. Pow’s assist would also prove to be his first point for the Warriors.

The third period saw the game open up even more, Owen Yarrow having a fiercely-struck shot deflected and clipping the bar. A flurry of penalties including a 5-on-3 powerplay opportunity for Whitley disrupted the flow once again but at 55:29, and with just a single second left on a Connor Lewis tripping penalty, the Warriors made it 5-1. Some quick hands from Kyle Ross saw him spin around and control the puck on his forehand, which deceived the Lions defence and Luca Sheldon to score with a wraparound, in what was a great individual effort.

It was the final word on what was a solid team performance and one that required Whitley to work hard for. The two sides meet again next Saturday in the East Midlands.


Warriors: 64
Lions: 33

Warriors: Adam Finlinson 1+2, Callum Queenan 1+1, Jay Lucas 1+0, Anth Wetherell 1+0, Kyle Ross 1+0, Shaun Kippin 0+1, Harry Harley 0+1, Olly King 0+1, Kyle Pow 0+1.
Lions: Zach Yokoyama 1+0.

Warriors: 8
Lions: 12

Man of the Match
Warriors: Kyle Ross
Lions: Luca Sheldon