Saturday evening saw Whitley Warriors go down to a disappointing 3-2 home defeat to Nottingham Lions at Hillheads in NIHL North One Moralee action. Despite taking the lead early on through Phil Edgar, Whitley slipped to defeat on a frustrating night that saw Warriors outshoot their opponents only to see profligate finishing come back to haunt them.
Warriors took to the ice in confident mood, having pushed Hull Pirates all the way to penalty shots the previous weekend. Man of the match in that game had been awarded to the outstanding Richie Lawson, with the Whitley netminder hoping to continue his fine form to deny the visiting Lions. The ranks of the Maroon and Gold were somewhat depleted as they took to the ice, however, with Callum Watson, DJ Good, Harry Harley and Adam Finlinson amongst those missing.
A transitional summer for British ice hockey following the demise of the EPL saw Nottingham Lions move back up to the NIHL North One Moralee set up, having competed in the second tier for the past few years. The East Midlands outfit went in to Saturday night’s clash with only one solitary victory in eleven league games; a 5-4 away win at Solihull Barons. Suffering from a lack of fire power, Nottingham travelled north placed 9th in the table with the unenviable record of being the lowest scorers throughout the entire league, notching a mere 22 times in 11 games. The experienced Marc Levers was available once more for the away side, with Elliott Perrin and Adam Andrews also hoping to make a good impression.
The first period saw Canadian import Phil Edgar open the scoring at 3:14 to hand Whitley the perfect start. Forcing his way to the high slot, Edgar showcased the smooth stick handling skills the Hillheads faithful have now become accustomed to before firing a wrist shot into the top corner for 1-0. The game’s first physical flashpoint saw Shaun Kippin take his opponent hard in to the boards much to the anger of Nottingham number 19, Joseph Gretton. An exchange of words between the two players quickly led to both attempting to land blows on one another, prompting 2+2 roughing minors a piece on top of a 2-minute boarding penalty for Kippin.
Just 16 seconds later, Nottingham were able to make the most of their man advantage, Marc Levers scoring to level the game at 5:16. What had started so well for Warriors was now becoming a scrappy affair, but Dean Holland came oh so close to restoring the lead when the winger crashed a slap shot off the post with Hovell beaten all ends up in the Lions goal around the 8-minute mark. The visitors thought they had taken the lead just before the end of the opening period, but were denied by referee David Emmerson who washed out the goal for an altercation off the puck that saw Josh Maddock needing medical attention.
Whitley were in need of a fast start to the middle session having been unable to fully assert themselves on their opponents, but instead Warriors found themselves 2-1 down just 44 seconds after the restart. Lions’ Joseph Gretton found himself in space on the right wing, supported on the odd man rush by Joe Aston, and when Gretton’s shot was saved by Richie Lawson the puck fell to an open Aston to tap in at 20:44. It was the worst possible start imaginable for Warriors, with the Lions goal seemingly sapping the confidence from those of a Maroon and Gold persuasion.
Try as they may throughout the second period, the Warriors forward lines just simply could not spark and find that elusive equaliser. As the clock ticked down towards the 40-minute mark, player/coach David Longstaff must have been hoping to get his players in to the dressing room with only a single goal deficit. Sadly, those plans flew out the window with less than 1-minute left of the second period. Skating down the left wing unopposed, Joe Aston extended the Lions lead to 3-1, sniping glove side beyond an over exposed Richie Lawson for his 2nd of the evening.
The final 20 minutes required a massive effort from the Tynesiders. A frustrating night had seen plenty of shots in and around Hovell in the Lions goals without one clear opportunity really presenting itself since the opening strike from Phil Edgar. Warriors found themselves with an odd man rush of their own at approximately 43 minutes, sweeping forward through Jordan Barnes who was able to feed Shaun Kippin in space to the right of goal, only for Thomas Hovell to stand tall and deny Kippin with his blocker.
Momentum seemed to swing firmly in the favour of the Maroon and Gold at 46:07 when the Hillheads faithful erupted in fury at a check to the head by Adam Andrews on D man Josh Maddock, the resulting contact leaving Maddock prone on the ice and subsequently withdrawn from the rest of the game. The incident fired up the crowd and players alike, and when Andrews was served a match penalty by referee Emmerson it seemed Whitley now had a clear route back in to the contest. Warriors moved to within a single goal thanks to a wicked slap shot from near the blue line by Dan Pye, the assist going to Martin Crammond at 52:26, but despite pulling Richie Lawson late on for the extra skater Whitley could not find that elusive equaliser and had to watch Nottingham celebrate a 3-2 win at the final buzzer.
The industrious Kyle Ross was nominated as Man of the Match for Whitley Warriors, with Marc Levers taking the award for Nottingham Lions.
Warriors are next at home on Saturday 25th November 2017, when Deeside Dragons are the visitors to Hillheads. Despite another rare Saturday night game, face off is at the usual time of 5.00pm.
Shots on goal
Warriors – Edgar 1+1, Pye 1+0, Longstaff, Crammond, Barnes 0+1
Lions – Aston 2+1, Levers 1+1, Gretton 0+2, Pniok 0+1
Man of the match sponsored by Morrisinghs
Warriors – 13 Kyle Ross
Lions – 16 Marc Levers
Warriors – 12
Lions – 39
Referee – David Emmerson
Linesmen – Craig Davison, Mark Bone
In the first interval, Warriors fans were given a performance of 17 year old Emily Gibson’s short programme – she’ll be competing in the British Figure Skating Championship later this month and everyone at Whitley Warriors wishes her the best of luck.