Whitley Warriors had a double header of games against the Blackburn Hawks over the weekend with an away fixture on Saturday evening before a home game the following day.
Whitley came away from Lancashire with a superb 5-2 victory in their first game of the weekend. Warriors held a 3-0 lead after 2 periods of hockey thanks to goals from Phil Edgar (2) and Josh Maddock. Adam Finlinson then made it 4-0 to Warriors, Hawks grabbed 2 goals back however a late empty net goal from Dean Holland made sure of a Warriors success.
On a cold and snowy Sunday evening Warriors entertained the Blackburn Hawks at Hillheads. Whitley were able to ice a strong squad as the only regulars missing from the line up were Callum Watson, Mark Turnbull and Ben Richards.
Warriors started the game positively and went to close to netting the game’s opening goal as Hawks netminder Stuart Ashton was almost caught out on a couple occasions with shots from distance. However it was Hawks who opened the scoring on 10 minutes when their recent signing Corey Stones found the back of the net following a defensive lapse from Warriors. Seconds later Whitley were on the powerplay when Luke Boothroyd of Blackburn was penalised for high sticking by the officials on duty however Warriors could not make the most of their man advantage on this occasion which saw Blackburn preserve their slim lead. With seconds remaining in the opening period it appeared that Warriors skipper Dean Holland was about to have the opportunity to tie the game up as he advanced towards the Blackburn goal with the Hawks defence on the back foot however play was pulled back for offside.
With 27 minutes played Phil Edgar almost netted Warriors opening goal of the game when Stuart Ashton was just able to thwart the Canadian after he had been nicely set up by the lively Ryan Sample. Just 2 minutes later Edgar did find the back of the net with Sample involved once again as he and Dean Holland picked up the assists.
Hawks then ran into some penalty trouble with Corey Stones and Steve Duncombe picking up penalties. Harry Harley made the visitors pay as fired home while Whitley had a 5 on 3 advantage with a thunderbolt from the blue line. Warriors went onto make the most of their extended powerplay as they then grabbed a further goal when a Jordan Barnes strike got the better of Blackburn goalie Ashton.
The Blackburn defence looked a little stunned given they had conceded 3 goals in a muinute spell. Warriors continued to create openings though and they enhanced their lead on 36 minutes when a stray pass from the Hawks blue line fell to Shaun Kippin who intelligently squared the puck to David Longstaff who was able to slot home comfortably into the unguarded side of the net.
Late on in the 2nd period Hawks got a powerplay opportunity when Warriors Martin Crammond was sent into the sin bin for hooking. Blackburn were able to exert some pressure on the Warriors defence and Hawks Rick Bentham expertly found Lewis Baldwin at the back post and the youngster was able to fire home past Whitley’s last line of defence Richie Lawson. Early in the 3rd period Richie was called into action when Hawks Rick Bentham launched a shot on the Warriors net however Whitley’s senior netminder was able to pull off a magnificent save to deny Blackburn’s talisman.
Warriors went onto enjoy the final period of play as Phil Edgar hit a low shot past Ashton on 50 minutes to enhance Whitley’s strong position in the game. Warriors then ran into some penalty trouble late in proceedings however DJ Good did not let Hawks having a 5 on 3 powerplay affect him as he caught out the Blackburn defence with a surge down the left before finding the top corner of the net with a sweet strike that sent the Hillheads crowd into raptures. DJ was named as Whitley Man of the Match for an outstanding all round display with Lewis Baldwin being selected as the visitors most effective player.
Whitley claimed an impressive 6-2 success against Hawks to end a superb weekend in which David Longstaff’s side picked up 4 points against one of their main play off rivals.
Next weekend sees Whitley in action here at Hillheads on Saturday evening when the Solihull Barons visit Tyneside. On Sunday night Whitley make the long trip down to Shropshire to take on the Telford Tigers in their 2nd NIHL North league game of the weekend.