Whitley Warriors last league game of the season saw David Longstaff and his side travel down to Teesside for a local derby against the Billingham Stars on Sunday evening. Warriors were without Andre Payette and Shaun Kippin who were both suspended following last weekend’s game with the Solway Sharks. Going into the game Warriors knew they needed to win to keep their play off hopes alive and hope other results went their way.
Warriors started the game on fire and just 32 seconds into proceedings Ben Richards slotted home after being set up neatly by 16 year old Jamie Ord. Whitley were intent on pressurising the Stars defence and with just over a minute played Warriors grabbed a 2nd goal when DJ Good found the back of the net to the delight of the large contingent of travelling fans who had made the trip down the A19 to watch their side in action.
Callum Watson extended Warriors lead on 7 minutes with an exquisite finish that left Billingham’s star netminder James Flavell a little baffled. Dean Holland almost made it 4-0 shortly afterwards however Flavell was able to keep the effort from the Whitley skipper out of his net. Stars got a goal back on 10 minutes when Michael Bowman netted and Billingham could have made the scoreline closer minutes later when Callum Davies fired wide when well placed for the Stars.
Warriors had to kill a Stars powerplay early on in the 2nd period after Jordan Barnes had been penalised for boarding. Whitley were making full use of their roster running 3 forward lines and 3 defensive pairings with several youngsters seeing significant ice time and it was one of the teenagers who grabbed the games next goal when Jamie Ord netted his first goal in senior hockey with a sublime finish past Mark Watson in the home sides goal. Stars had opted to replace their starting netminder James Flavell who had looked a little rattled at the first interval. At this point of the game many Warriors fans were buoyed by the news that Blackburn were losing which meant that Whitley’s victory could still mean a spot in the play offs.
Billingham came back into the contest during the middle session of play as Ben Davison grabbed a goal for Stars at around the 30 minute mark before Dennis Bostrum managed to get away from the Warriors defence and finish with aplomb to get Billingham within a goal of the Warriors. Whitley were given a late powerplay opportunity in the 2nd period when referee Farren belatedly gave Michael Bowman 2 minutes for a high sticking offence. Warriors made the most of their man advantage as Callum Watson netted his 2nd goal of the game with a powerplay marker.
The final period saw Warriors grab a further goal when Dean Holland got on the scoresheet for his side. Whitley goaltender Richie Lawson made several fine saves to ensure the score remained 6-3 to Warriors after 60 minutes of action. Unfortunately for everyone connected with Warriors Blackburn were able to skate to a victory against Solihull which saw the Hawks qualify for the end of season play offs which will be held in Sheffield in early April.
Warriors Man of the Match went to DJ Good for a hard working display while the Stars best performer on the night was adjudged to be the versatile Ben Davison who operated in defence against Warriors.