Whitley Warriors achieved the first victory of their 2018-19 campaign with a 4-1 road win against Sutton Sting on Saturday evening.
Making the trip with a strong line-up of nineteen skaters to match the Sting in number, the Warriors were keen to make amends for last weekend’s home result against Blackburn Hawks and it showed as they took to the ice with a will to win.
Remaining strong in defence as Sutton headed out with a view to bombard shot stopper Richie Lawson, the Warriors countered through left winger Ben Campbell who dominated in offence for the visitors in conjunction with versatile centre Kyle Ross and skilled forward Callum Watson. With play becoming scrappy as Whitley strove to break down their opposition, both teams found it difficult to get onto the scoresheet in the early stages of the game and it was only when Whitley’s forward Ryan Sample picked up a penalty for tripping on 15:27 that the Warriors’ determination finally paid off; Campbell hammering the puck beyond netminder Warren Gilfoyle forty seconds later following swift play between Ross and Alternate Captain Sam Zajac. Delighted with their shorthanded goal, the Warriors killed the remainder of Sample’s penalty to return to full strength unscathed but thirty six seconds from the end of the first period, defenceman Ross Connolly was shown to the sin bin for the same offence to see Whitley return to the ice shorthanded after the break.
Beginning on the power play as a result of Connolly’s misdemeanour, Sutton fought for an equaliser but they could not find a way past Lawson in spite of their many efforts and instead went shorthanded themselves on 25:13 when Alternate Captain Stanislav Lašček was sidelined for holding. Likewise, the Warriors could not punish their opposition on the power play and again found it difficult to make more of their chances when the Sting were restored to five men as play continued to be disjointed and possession hard-fought. Though threatening the Warriors’ fragile lead, Sutton awarded Whitley a power play on 34:03 when young forward Oliver Mitchell was made to sit out for roughing. Their power play fruitless, the Warriors were handed another chance to capitalise when Sutton’s Swedish defenceman Jonas Fredriksson made way for tripping with less than two minutes remaining in the middle stanza but David Longstaff’s men watched this opportunity skip by to carry their 1-0 lead into the final period.
On their return to the ice, the Warriors could not double their tally in the remaining twenty four seconds of their power play and missed out yet again when Fredriksson was called back to the sin bin for interference. Taking heart, Sutton increased their attack and a high sticks penalty for Zajac just past the midpoint of the period presented Simon Butterworth’s team with the perfect opportunity to get back on level terms as Alternate Captain Craig Elliot accomplished his second goal of the season with support from experienced defenceman James Goodman and strong left winger Ryan Johnson. Frustrated to have let their lead slip away, the Warriors were awarded one last power play on 53:22 when Lašček was made to serve two minutes for a late hit. Finally making their advantage count, Whitley were fired ahead for a second time by Campbell who found the target after receiving a neat pass from Zajac. Fifty seconds later, creative play between Campbell and Ross allowed Watson to bury his shot into Gilfoyle’s net which presented Whitley with a 3-1 lead. Stunned by these two quick goals, Sutton immediately called a timeout to discuss their way back into the game and removed netminder Gilfoyle in place of an additional skater with less than two minutes remaining. This decision prompted Longstaff to call a timeout of his own and, resuming play, his team hurled themselves into defence to force Sutton back over the blue line. Mistakenly playing the puck into their offensive zone when offside, the Sting looked to recover with a snappy shot at Lawson but this only allowed the netminder to take control of possession to spectacularly strike the puck into Sutton’s empty net. The score line 4-1, the final buzzer sounded nine seconds later to confirm Whitley’s first victory of their 2018-19 campaign.
Remaining in ninth place with three points on the back of this result, the Warriors will look to build on this win when they take to the road again next weekend against Sheffield Steeldogs and Blackburn Hawks.
Shots on goal
Craig Elliot (1+0), James Goodman (0+1), Ryan Johnson (0+1)
Ben Campbell (2+1), Callum Watson (1+0), Richie Lawson (1+0), Sam Zajac (0+2), Kyle Ross (0+2)
Man of the Match
Sting: Craig Elliot
Warriors: Richie Lawson
Referee: Roy Hamilton
Linesman: Haris Hussain
Linesman: Ethan Hardy