Whitley Warriors continued their unbeaten start to the season with a 4-1 win at home to Widnes Wild on Saturday followed by a 4-2 road win at Deeside Dragons on Sunday evening.
On Saturday they welcomed back Thomas Fraser who missed last weekend but were without Garry Simpson and the injured Owen Yarrow. Ryan Wardell got the start in net.
The home side got the early breakthrough when Rihards Grigors continued his great goal scoring start to the season. He found the net at 3:09 after Kyle Pow and Matty McDonald combined to set him up. The Warriors were the stronger side throughout the opening period and outshot the Wild 16-6.
They doubled their lead at 25:10 when the Wild’s William Harper was called for a holding penalty, Kyle Pow netting his first goal in a Warriors jersey on the powerplay with Grigors and Harry Harley getting the assists.
Despite the Warriors once again out-shooting their opponents 20-9, it couldn’t prevent the Wild from cutting the arrears at 34:32 when Michael Gilbert scored from Joey Coulter and Matthew Barlow. But Whitley soon restored their two goal advantage before the break when Olly King also grabbed his first Warriors goal, after leading scorer Adam Robinson had set him up.
Early in the final period Matthew Barlow was called for delaying the game which gave Harry Harley the chance to score with a penalty shot. The defenceman duly dispatched his attempt to give his side a comfortable lead, and one they didn’t look like relinquishing. They outshot Widnes 14-6 as they saw the game out.
Warriors: Rihards Grigors 1+1, Kyle Pow 1+1, Harry Harley 1+1, Olly King 1+0, Adam Robinson 0+1, Matty McDonald 0+1.
Wild: Michael Gilbert 1+0, Joey Coulter 0+1, Matthew Barlow 0+1.
Man of the Match
Warriors: Kyle Pow
Wild: Joey Coulter
The following night Whitley made the trip to Queensferry to take on Deeside Dragons, a side they last faced in the playoff quarter finals at the end of last season.
They were without Callum Queenan, Adam Finlinson, Ross Douglass and Thomas Fraser, along with the newly-injured Olly King. Garry Simpson made a welcomed return to the lineup, playing on the top unit with Kyle Ross and Rihards Grigors, who switched to forward.
Shaun Kippin had Jamie Ord and Adam Robinson alongside him on the second line with Matthew Betham the centre between Lewis Crisp and Jay Lucas.
That left Whitley with Harry Harley, Kyle Pow, Liam Smedley, Matty McDonald and Connor Lewis rotating on defence, with the latter also moving to forward for the last two periods. Dean Bowater got the start in goal.
There was a fast-paced nature to the start of the game with both sides creating chances but it would be the home side that would race into a lead. A poor giveaway by Kyle Pow in the defensive zone was seized upon by Petr Valusiak who cut in off the right wing to fire home the opener.
Just over a minute later Deeside were given a great opportunity to double their lead when Whitley were called for a double minor. Adam Robinson went to the box for clipping and Matty McDonald followed him during the delayed penalty for tripping.
With a 5-on-3 advantage, the Dragons wasted little time in making full use of their powerplay – just fifteen seconds in fact, as Brodie Jesson’s shot from the point rebounded behind Dean Bowater and was tapped into an empty net by Valusiak for his and his side’s second. After Whitley killed off the second penalty, Jay Lucas took a shot from the right wing to force a high glove save from Deeside goalie Matt Croyle.
Whitley continued to try to force a way back into the game and nearly got a breakthrough at 10:51 when Matty McDonald’s shot from out along the right wing boards saw Croyle make a low glove save. A couple of minutes later Rihards Grigors darted down the left wing to find Garry Simpson, whose one timer was sent wide before his follow up attempt at a wraparound was fired at the goalie.
Whitley would have four powerplay opportunities late in the period but on each occasion were unable to trouble Matt Croyle. The Dragons edged the period 11-10 in shots.
Rihards Grigors didn’t appear for the second period after suffering an upper body injury so that forced another tactical re-shuffle with Connor Lewis slotting into the right wing position on the top forward line.
After a scrappy start to the session, Whitley finally got on the scoresheet at 24:09 after Jamie Ord’s good play behind the net set up Shaun Kippin in the low slot for the Whitley captain to stab high into the top shelf.
Four minutes later and the visitors were level. Harry Harley kept the puck in the offensive zone before finding Garry Simpson out wide. The forward, who is on a two-way deal with Paisley Pirates, then played the puck towards the crease for Connor Lewis to fire home, the young defender’s switch to forward paying dividends. A minute later the same trio combined again to set up Simpson who fired at Croyle in the net.
Just past the mid-point of the game Karl Bacon was sent on to mix things up. He got a reaction from Jay Lucas which would see the pair drop the gloves and then continue their argument in the penalty box.
With both players off the ice Matt Croyle very nearly gifted Whitley the lead when he left his crease to play the puck behind the net. Shaun Kippin stole in to take it from him, but couldn’t steer his effort on target.
Both sides created lots of chances during the period, with Garry Simpson having the majority for the Warriors, but he was unable to find a way past Croyle in the Dragons net.
Going into the third period it was clearly anyone’s game. Whitley had their first lead of the contest a minute in when Shaun Kippin found Adam Robinson in the left wing position. The Belfast-born forward then fired high into the net to beat Croyle and extend his points tally for the season.
Deeside were far from out of it though and when Chris Jones was left alone in the low slot at 46:24 he could only find the logo of Dean Bowater’s jersey, but it served as a reminder to the threat the Dragons posed.
Whitley were then forced to kill off another 5-on-3 Dragons powerplay but seemed to gain momentum from it, as soon after they extended their lead with Robinson’s second. Jamie Ord and Shaun Kippin combined to find Robinson in the mid-slot with his shot once again beating Croyle with less than eight minutes remaining.
There then saw a flurry of penalties called, including another 5-on-3 powerplay for Deeside and an injury to Connor Lewis after he was boarded inside the final couple of minutes. Deeside were desperate to make up the two goal deficit and pulled goalie Croyle to make it 5-on-5 on the ice.
With 26.7 seconds remaining a Harry Harley shot from the point was deflected home by Adam Robinson for his hat trick marker but the officials later waved it off for a high stick.
Whitley survived a final push from the home side to remain the only team with a 100 per cent record in the league and stay top of the standings.
Warriors: Adam Robinson 2+1, Shaun Kippin 1+2, Connor Lewis 1+0, Jamie Ord 0+2, Garry Simpson 0+1, Harry Harley 0+1.
Dragons: Petr Valusiak 2+0, Brodie Jesson 0+1, Ross Kennedy 0+1.
Man of the Match
Warriors: Adam Robinson
Dragons: Oliver Howells