Whitley Warriors started 2018 with a double header of games with a trip to the Scottish Borders to take on the Solway Sharks on Saturday evening before a home game against the Solihull Barons the following night.
On Saturday Warriors were 4-1 in arrears after the 1st period of play, however goals from Dean Holland and Sam Zajac saw Whitley only 1 goal down after 40 minutes of hockey. Sharks were able to step up their game in the final period as the home side netted 3 unanswered goals to take the contest by a 7-3 scoreline.
On Sunday evening Whitley were able to name a strong roster of players for their game with the Solihull Barons with only Martin Crammond and Mark Turnbull missing from their regular line up. Barons travelled north looking well equipped for the match with 2 netminders and a healthy roster of skaters.
Once the game got underway after a short delay it became clear Warriors were intending to operate with 3 defensive pairings and 3 forward lines throughout the contest.
Whitley were looking quite creative in the opening minutes of the contest and Jordan Barnes grabbed the game’s opening goal when he fired through Josh Nicholls after being set up nicely by player/coach David Longstaff. As the period progressed Ben Richards was causing numerous problems for the visitors rear guard as the young winger’s skilful play almost saw Warriors increase their advantage on more than one occasion.
At the start of the 2nd period Warriors import forward Phil Edgar picked the puck behind his own net and after evading the challenges of 2 Barons player made his way into the Solihull zone however Barons netminder Nicholls was equal to Edgar’s effort. Shortly afterwards Adam Brittle almost grabbed Barons first goal of the game however Warriors Richie Lawson was able to turn the effort aside with a smart stop.
Warriors then extended their lead when a long range effort from Harry Harley evaded Josh Nicholls and found its way into the back of the Barons net. Nicholls looked a little shocked to have conceded such a goal and Warriors quickly tested him again however Barons number 20 was able to thwart Whitley on this occasion.
With the scoreline only 2-0 to Warriors, Barons were still firmly in the contest and Niklas Ottosson grabbed the visitors opening goal 24 minutes into proceedings to the delight of the small band of travelling supporters sat a few rows behind the Barons bench. Solihull were galvanised by the goal and just 31 seconds later skipper Josh Bruce netted the equaliser for his side. Warriors looked to quickly regain their lead and pressurise the visitors defence however a Solihull break away resulted in a goal from alternate captain Marcus Maynard with Ottosson and Thomas Soar picking up the assists on their go ahead goal. Barons had the games first powerplay opportunity later in the middle period of play however Warriors were able to kill off the 2 minute misconduct penalty given to Shaun Kippin by referee Emerson.
Going into the final stanza Barons held a narrow 3-2 advantage, Warriors tried to change things up by altering their lines and Whitley’s new line combinations resulted in the equalising goal when Ben Richards shot just crept over the line despite Nicholls being finger tips away from the puck, DJ Good and Adam Finlinson picking up the assists.
Both sides were now looking for the game winning goal and when Thomas Soar couldn’t take control of the puck in the Whitley Zone Warriors broke quickly which saw Longstaff setting up Harry Harley who fired home to send the home side back into the lead.
A late penalty on Jordan Barnes should have given Solihull a powerplay opportunity however Warriors were soon evenhanded as Barons picked up a penalty of their own seconds later. Warriors grabbed a late goal through Dean Holland to make sure of the points as the home side edged the game by 5 goals to 3.
Warriors Man of the Match went to Dean Holland for a hard working display from the Whitley forward with Edward Eaton being assessed as the Barons best player on the night. Whitley’s next home game sees them take on the Hull Pirates next Sunday evening at Hillheads in a game that faces off at 5pm.