Whitley Warriors claimed their first road win of the season on Saturday when they saw off a strong challenge from Nottingham Lions to claim a narrow 2-0 success in the East Midlands.
They travelled without Garry Simpson, Kyle Ross, Jamie Ord, Ross Douglass and Thomas Fraser, meaning they had eleven forwards, five defencemen and a revamped look to the one we saw last week.
Rihards Grigors moved from the blue line to centre the first and fourth lines, while captain Shaun Kippin had Lewis Crisp and Olly King alongside him. Anth Wetherell centred the third line with Jay Lucas and Adam Robinson. Ryan Wardell got the start in net.
Similarly to the previous week it was a scrappy opening period with few clear chances for either team. However, the home side probably edged it with Zach Yokoyama continuing to be the main offensive threat for the Lions. Both Ryan Wardell and Luca Sheldon made some smart stops which kept the game goalless going into the break.
There was some much improved play from Whitley in the second period, with some good shifts from Olly King and strong defensive plays from Harry Harley proving to be amongst the highlights. Shaun Kippin put in a typical Captain’s performance, whilst also demonstrating a fantastic range of passing. The veteran forward was looking to set his linemates away with perfectly weighted passes and intelligent link up play on every shift, while his two-way game of helping out defensively as well as leading the charge offensively was taken straight from the text book of ‘How to play Centre’.
The game was essentially won five minutes before the mid-point of the contest. Adam Robinson netted his first goal in Whitley colours at 24:55 when he gathered in a Jay Lucas pass with his back to goal. He shot on the turn from an acute angle from wide out on the left wing, sniping top shelf over Luca Sheldon’s shoulder, who fell onto the goal frame, taking it off as he tried to prevent the puck from going in.
Moments later a serious-looking ankle injury to Owen Yarrow saw a delay as the young forward had to leave the game on a stretcher. But any thoughts that losing one of their top performing players might prove costly was soon forgotten when Whitley doubled their lead. Adam Robinson fed Harry Harley in the defensive zone,before the Whitley defenceman proceeded to skate the full length of the ice, darting down the right wing. He then cut inside as he advanced to goal before taking a shot from right on Sheldon’s doorstep and firing high into the top of the net.
Liam Smedley was harshly called for a double minor at 33:15 for hooking and roughing in a goal crease melée which surprisingly didn’t see any Lions players sent to the penalty box with him. That put the Warriors under pressure late in the period and when Matty McDonald joined his defensive partner in there at 35:04 it meant a 5-on-3 powerplay to the Lions. However, thanks to a strong penalty kill and further saves from Ryan Wardell, the Warriors were able to see that pressure off and go into the second break with their two goal lead intact.
The final period was one of frustration for both sides. Whitley were in for some rough treatment from the Lions with many infractions going unpunished. The Lions’ talisman Zach Yokoyama seemingly got frustrated too as his side failed to find a way past an unbeatable Ryan Wardell in the Whitley net.
Yokoyama and Olly King exchanged cross checks at 41:34 which saw both players earn penalties while Jay Lucas was also on the receiving end of some late hits which saw him react at 54:32 and called for charging. It meant the Lions had a great opportunity to get back into the game but once again Wardell’s saves were creating confidence in his team mates. The Whitley goalie, who is yet to concede in his first two games for the club, never looked like being beaten all afternoon.
Having been back on the ice for all of twenty seconds, Jay Lucas was called for tripping, having reacted to an Owen Davis cross check. This time both players went to the box. But just over a minute later Yokoyama ensured he would end the game early, being given a 2+2 double minor penalty for butt-ending Adam Finlinson, who also got a retaliatory call for slashing at the Canadian.
For all his talent on the puck, Yokoyama’s lack of discipline prevented the Lions from having that final push to get something from the game. It was far from an easy win, especially having so many prominent players missing. But you suspect it was one that the Warriors can be thankful for, bagging the two points that came with it.
Warriors: Adam Robinson 1+1, Harry Harley 1+0, Jay Lucas 0+1, Anth Wetherell 0+1, Connor Lewis 0+1.
Man of the Match
Warriors: Ryan Wardell
Lions: Harry Rushby
The following night Warriors hosted Sheffield Scimitars but were made to work just as hard for the win. They welcomed back Kyle Ross, Ross Douglass and Jamie Ord but were without Owen Yarrow after it was confirmed he has a fractured ankle and will be out of action for the next few weeks.
In contrast to the games against Nottingham in recent weeks, the game had a much more fast pace about it. But it was Sheffield who had the best chances early on. Less than 90 seconds into the game they had a great double chance with the home side thankful to Dean Bowater for pulling off a pair huge saves.
Although Whitley settled into the game and spent much of the period in the offensive zone, the Scimitars continued to make life difficult for their hosts and always looked capable of catching them on the break. Jacob Brammer certainly looked a threat going forward. Fritz Heinzle very nearly found the net on one such breakaway and then Sam Rodgers also had a similar goalscoring opportunity late on in the period, with Bowater once again the Warriors’ saviour.
The second period started with much more purpose from the Warriors. Matty McDonald unleashed three shots from distance in the space of twenty seconds to test Nick Winters in the Sheffield net but couldn’t find a way past him. Soon after Liam Smedley also tried his luck from far out on the right wing but when his effort rebounded out to Jamie Ord, he too was thwarted from a similar distance from the left side. Sheffield were defending well, shrinking the ice around the crease meaning the Warriors were left with long range efforts. The closest they came to scoring was when Adam Finlinson found Callum Queenan in the low slot, but the latter could only tip the puck narrowly wide of the goal whilst shorthanded.
The fast pace of the game continued but amazingly there were still no goals to show for it. Sheffield could have taken a shock lead though, when Rodgers stole in for his second breakaway of the game but he could only fire over the bar. Whitley were then presented a great opportunity late in the period, on the powerplay. While they did generate a lot of chances with the man advantage they couldn’t solve Winters in the net. They did outshoot the Scimitars 19-7 during the session though.
Four minutes into the final period Whitley finally got their breakthrough. Harry Harley fired from distance and his shot was tipped home by Jay Lucas’ quick redirect through the legs of Winters. Lucas’ goal proved to be the game winner and having waited to get his first in Whitley colours now has two in as many home games.
Sheffield looked for an instant response and very nearly got one when they were given a 5-on-3 powerplay opportunity soon after. Lewis Crisp was called for hooking with Callum Queenan soon following him to the box for tripping. Thankfully, Whitley were able to kill off both penalties but were soon in further penalty trouble when Rihards Grigors was called for a double minor for roughing after Luke Allen caught the Latvian defenceman with a high stick.
With both men off the ice it did present the Scimitars with another powerplay but that was soon negated when Reece Wickens was called for hooking. With all the penalties having elapsed without incident and a little over four minutes remaining, Liam Smedley sniped a shot into the top corner over Winters’ glove side to double his side’s lead.
Two minutes later Whitley made the game safe when Anth Wetherell was left alone in the high slot, and he shot straight through Winters. Rihards Grigors did well to pick him out initially for the assist.
So a four point weekend against two sides that have improved massively since last season means Whitley can be relatively happy right now.
Jay Lucas who didn’t have a Warriors goal to his name ten days ago, now leads the team in goal scoring along with Anth Wetherell, while Adam Robinson had a four point weekend of his own to lead the team in points. Dean Bowater claimed his first shut out of the season meaning just a single penalty shot is all that has been conceded between himself and Ryan Wardell so far.
Warriors: Jay Lucas 1+0, Liam Smedley 1+0, Anth Wetherell 1+0, Adam Robinson 0+2, Harry Harley 0+1, Rihards Grigors 0+1, Connor Lewis 0+1.
Man of the Match
Warriors: Rihards Grigors
Scimitars: Nick Winters