Warriors edge tight contest to remain top

DJ Good and Andre Payette

Whitley Warriors took on the Telford NIHL Tigers on Sunday evening on home ice. Warriors were without Dean Holland and Alex Lawson who were both ruled out through injury however player/coach Longstaff had all his other senior players available to him.
Just 6 seconds into the contest Whitley import Andre Payette and Tigers influential d man Dan Croft dropped the gloves and traded blows. Both players were given 4 minutes in penalties for fighting by the officials on duty. As the game progressed Warriors were creating a number of chances and David Longstaff almost opened the scoring with 7 minutes on the clock when his effort cannoned back off the cross bar. Ben Richards also went close around a minute later when Telford net minder Bell had to be at his best to thwart the Warriors winger.

Josh Maddock then came to blows with Tigers highly thought of forward Callum Bowley after 15 minutes of play. Maddock was also given a slashing penalty which saw Tigers presented with a power play opportunity. Telford’s specialist team worked the puck well however Whitley’s defence were able to kill off the penalty and after 20 minutes of combative hockey the scores remained level.

Six minutes into the middle period of play Warriors took the lead when Callum Watson grabbed his 4th goal of the season after being nicely set up by his line mates Jordan Barnes and Shaun Kippin. Seconds later Tigers James Smith was penalised for tripping and on the resulting power play Jamie Tinsley stabbed home from close range to give Warriors a 2-0 lead.

Whitley continued to create openings throughout the remainder of the stanza and shortly before the end of the period Martin Crammond found the back of the net when his shot got the better of Telford’s teenage goaltender Bell.

The third period saw Telford come right back into the game, Tigers grabbed their first goal on 46 minutes when Adam Taylor fired home on the powerplay after Warriors DJ Good had been penalised for tripping. The visitors were clearly lifted by their opening strike and minutes later James Smith found the bottom corner of the net from distance.

Tigers continued to look dangerous and with under 5 minutes remaining in the match up Telford stalwart Karol Jets got the equalising goal with youngsters James Smith and Callum Bowley picking up the assists. Fifteen seconds after the goal Tigers Daniel Harrison was sent to the sin bin for a tripping misdemenour which gave Warriors a late powerplay opportunity.

Whitley made the most of the man advantage when Ben Richards found the back of the net from close range with only 3 seconds of the powerplay remaining to the delight of the large crowd who had come along to Hillheads to see Warriors take on the Tigers.

Telford called a time out immediately after Warriors 4th goal to outline their tactics over the remaining 2 and a half minutes of the game however Whitley were able to see out the final minutes of the contest and claim the 2 points on offer thanks to a 4-3 victory.

Ben Richards was chosen as Warriors Man of the Match while Tigers Denis Bell was selected as the visitors top performer during the NIHL North Division 1 encounter.

Whitley assistant coach Dave Holland shared his views on the match up.

“A brilliant result for us this evening. They have a good team, an outstanding netminder and a number of good young forwards in their line up.

“When we were 3-0 up we introduced some of our younger players but when the game got tighter we had to cut the lines a little bit. I thought Kyle Ross did well he took shifts on a couple of different of lines and did well with his speed.

“Ben Richards late strike was a really important last goal for us and he took it well. His line with DJ Good and Martin Crammond did really well tonight and the opposition struggled to control them when they got in the zone.

“We haven’t picked up any knocks from the game which is of course good. Youngster Craig Johnson is out of the frame at the minute though as he has soft tissue damage to his hand so we won’t be risking him.”

Warriors are in action on home ice once again next weekend when the Sutton Sting visit North Tyneside on Sunday evening for a game that gets underway at the normal face off time of 5pm. Warriors will be looking to keep their unbeaten start to the season intact against John Ross’s Sting outfit who grabbed their first points of the season last weekend when they beat the Sheffield Spartans by 7 goals to 5 at Ice Sheffield.