Whitley Warriors suffered a double defeat on the opening weekend of their 2018-19 NIHL North campaign as David Longstaff’s men began with an 8-1 loss to Hull Pirates before enduring an 8-2 beating from tough contenders Telford Tigers at Hillheads.
Matching the Pirates in number, the Warriors travelled to Hull on Saturday with sixteen skaters and a particularly depleted defence, although the side gained an additional offensive option in twenty-five-year-old winger Adam Perrie who debuted, having iced for Northumbria Kings in recent seasons.
Striving to get back to game speed against Jason Hewitt’s men, Whitley were aware that they were in for a difficult contest against the former EPL outfit and the Pirates did not stray from expectations, accomplishing the lion’s share of possession early in the first period whilst the Warriors countered with notable efforts from Captain Dean Holland and experienced left winger Ben Campbell. Continuing to apply pressure to Whitley’s blue line, Hull nabbed the lead on 8:03, right winger James Archer tucking away defenceman Chris Wilcox’s point shot following a save from netminder Richie Lawson. Moments later, the Warriors placed themselves under more pressure when Alternate Captain Sam Zajac sat out for a late hit but Hull’s advantage was short-lived as Hewitt was sidelined seventy two seconds later for holding. Gaining a short power play on Zajac’s return to the ice in consequence, the Warriors were unable to significantly trouble netminder Tomas Fucik and instead, shot stopper Lawson bore the brunt of the Pirates’ offensive play as Hull sought to double their lead. Striving to break down Hewitt’s incredibly organised outfit, the Warriors then gained a deserved power play just under two minutes from the first interval when forward Matty Davies was sidelined for hooking but, as this advantage ran into the second period, Whitley failed to make their chances count.
Maintaining their desire to equalise as the second period unfolded, Campbell buried the puck after linking up with former Guildford teammate, Holland. Sixty two seconds later, Whitley went shorthanded for a second time when forward Callum Watson made way for charging but, strong on the penalty kill, Longstaff’s line-up were spurred on by the deadlock and laboured in front of Fucik’s net to force the shot stopper to pull off some important point blank saves. Despite Whitley’s work ethic, the Pirates edged ahead for a second time when Davies dismantled the Warriors’ defence with support from right winger Bobby Chamberlain. Grasping hold of the lead, Hull refused to give it up and the side were again rewarded for their tenacity when Hewitt printed his name on the scoresheet, Davies having fed possession from Wilcox to his player-coach. Not yet resigned to their defeat, the Warriors looked capable of recovering some lost ground with a strong shot from young forward Ross Douglass but Fucik smothered this opportunity to preserve his team’s lead. At the close of the middle stanza, Chamberlain and Davies paired up once more to present Hewitt with his second goal of the evening but the Warriors were given some reprieve when the interval arose as referee Andrew Miller called forward Jordan Fisher to the sin bin for crosschecking to hand Whitley the additional skater going into the final stanza.
Frustrated by yet another unproductive power play, the Warriors then struggled again when awarded the advantage on 46:00 following Chamberlain’s tripping offence. Establishing a three-goal lead, the Pirates began to find more time and space on the puck to make their presence felt in Whitley’s defensive zone which paid off in the fifty second minute of play as forward Lee Bonner beat Lawson singlehandedly before achieving a successive unassisted effort just seventy four seconds later. Trailing by six goals to one, the Warriors’ conceded a seventh just over a minute later, this time Wilcox pinching the puck to find Hewitt in the slot with support from Chamberlain. Allowing backup netminder Mark Turnbull some ice time in place of Lawson, the Warriors attempted to fend off Hull’s onslaught but unsurprisingly, the home outfit concluded their scoring with an eighth goal when Wilcox claimed possession from Chamberlain’s faceoff win to play the puck across the ice to forward George Crawshaw who beat Turnbull high glove with less than three minutes remaining.
Shots on goal
Jason Hewitt (3+0), Lee Bonner (2+0), Matty Davies (1+2), James Archer (1+0), George Crawshaw (1+0), Bobby Chamberlain (0+4), Chris Wilcox (0+4)
Ben Campbell (1+0), Dean Holland (0+1)
Man of the Match
Pirates: Jason Hewitt
Warriors: Ross Douglass
Referee: Andrew Miller
Linesman: Stuart Smith
Linesman: Alice Stanley
After missing out on two points in Hull, the Warriors returned to Hillheads on Sunday to take on Telford Tigers in what was expected to be a challenging opening game in front of Whitley’s home crowd and it proved to be just that. Whilst sixteen-man Telford made the lengthy trip without experienced defenceman Jonathan Weaver and new acquisition Doug Clarkson, the Warriors still found themselves up against a strong line-up and added to their own numbers by utilising third choice netminder Rory Dunn as a skater.
Both teams raring to go from faceoff, Whitley were quick to eye the net of shot stopper Denis Bell with some fast passing play and a determination to scramble the puck beyond Telford’s goal line culminating in some close range efforts, forwards Jordan Barnes and Callum Watson amongst those striving to bury the puck without success. Exhibiting defensive strength, the Tigers calmly achieved possession to involve shot stopper Richie Lawson in the encounter but the side’s offensive exploits eventually resulted in punishment when forward Adam Taylor was shown to the sin bin for hooking. With Bell withstanding the Warriors’ frantic attempts, Whitley were pleased to see their advantage extended as the visitors incurred a bench minor for delaying the game. Hard work from the Tigers’ ‘D’ men denied the Hillheads outfit a foothold and the Shropshire side returned to full strength to take play away from their danger zone. Watching his team scrapping for the puck in the corners, stand-in defenceman Ryan Sample became a physical presence on the ice, making an effective hit on youngster Brodie Jesson who retaliated to earn himself a minor for charging on 9:40. Whilst this power play should have provided Longstaff’s side with the opener that they were searching for, Tigers’ Captain Jason Silverthorn had other ideas, instead responding with a shorthanded goal assisted by the meticulous work of defenceman Jordan Stokes who played the puck up the ice to forward Rick Plant. Poor power plays beginning to take their toll, the Warriors knew that they could not pass up the chance to equalise when Telford’s forward Jack Watkins was sinbinned for high sticks so it was to their relief that Watson converted an excellent pass from Alternate Captain Sam Zajac to make it 1-1 on 15:49. Encouraged by this goal, Whitley fought hard for possession but the Tigers were simply waiting to pounce on the break and did so, forward Scott McKenzie freeing the puck from the frenzy in front of Lawson’s net to sneak a goal less than three minutes before the interval.
Telford returned to the ice with lightning-quick pace to produce their third goal just forty four seconds in, defenceman Daniel Rose wrestling the puck from Whitley to feed a pass to Plant who, picking out Silverthorn, watched his captain drive a long range shot home with great conviction to make it 3-1. Struggling to come back from this goal, the Warriors hurried into defence to intercept play and absorb the Tigers’ offensive pressure. However, slick passing play on Telford’s top line meant that it was no surprise when Stokes and Plant teamed up to assist Silverthorn’s hat trick on 28:51, the captain letting loose a zipping shot. Stunned, Lawson switched places with backup netminder Mark Turnbull at this point in the encounter. Oozing confidence as a result of their three-goal lead, Telford wasted little time in punishing Turnbull, finding the target to make it 5-1 just thirty two seconds later when Stokes teamed up with spirited right winger Andrew McKinney to see Watkins bullet the puck into the net. Spurred into action, Warrior Ross Douglass attempted to hit back with a long range shot from just inside the blue line which forced Bell to make the save whilst Dunn was also called into action as Longstaff attempted to rally his men. Play becoming increasingly heated between the two teams, the Warriors chased down a second goal in the final minute of the period, Campbell guarding his possession to thread a pass to Zajac who bagged his second assist of the evening when Captain Dean Holland gave the home crowd cause to cheer.
Striving to make amends in the final period, the home team tried to test Bell early on, with forward Shaun Kippin’s shot deflected out of play to see Whitley gain a faceoff in their offensive zone. Unfazed, The Tigers weathered the storm to make it 6-2 on 47:58; Plant sending Turnbull to his left before coolly steering the puck around the netminder following a pass from Taylor. A speculative shot from Dunn and a first shift for fast-paced forward Adam Perrie provided the Warriors with little hope of getting back into the game whilst a roughing penalty for Tigers’ ‘D’ man Corey Goodison could not hold Telford back, the side extending their lead shortly after returning to full strength through young two-way player Joseph Hazeldine as Plant achieved his fourth assist of the evening with support from winger Warren Tait. Seventeen seconds later, McKinney rounded off the Tigers’ scoring on 55:57, prompting more ice time for Longstaff’s fourth line which included youngsters Anthony Wetherell, Ross Douglass and Jamie Ord. The game all but done, offensive play fizzled out, leaving the final buzzer to call time on a second disappointing encounter for the Hillheads outfit.
Reflecting on his team’s performance over the course of these games, Player-Coach David Longstaff shared, “I thought we were excellent on Saturday for forty five minutes, missing six senior players, but then we looked very leggy. On Sunday, we were in the game for thirty minutes and then fell apart. We’re missing players so we have players playing out of position and, to be honest, whenever you have to dress your third goalie to play out your probably going to be in trouble.”
Sitting in ninth in the NIHL North league table after this weekend’s results, the Warriors will be back in action next weekend as they make the trip to Telford to take on Tom Watkins’ Tigers for a second successive weekend.
Shots on goal
Callum Watson (1+0), Dean Holland (1+0), Sam Zajac (0+2), Ben Campbell (0+1)
Jason Silverthorn (3+0), Rick Plant (1+4), Andrew McKinney (1+2), Jack Watkins (1+2), Scott McKenzie (1+1), Joseph Hazeldine (1+0), Jordan Stokes (0+3), Daniel Rose (0+1), Warren Tait (0+1), Adam Taylor (0+1)
Man of the Match
Warriors: Anthony Wetherell
Tigers: Denis Bell
Referee: David Emmerson
Linesman: Craig Davison
Linesman: Kieran Wrench