Warriors Swoop to Victory after Steeldogs Road Defeat

Sam Zajac

Sam Zajac. Photo by IceHockeyMedia

Whitley Warriors began their weekend with a 6-2 road defeat to Ben Morgan’s Sheffield Steeldogs on Saturday.

Though making the trip to Sheffield without first choice shot stopper Richie Lawson, blue liner Josh Maddock and forwards Dean Holland, Martin Crammond and DJ Good, the Warriors’ line-up of seventeen skaters included Latvian defenceman and debutant Rolands Gritāns. Meanwhile, the Steeldogs had one man less than their visitors but boasted a strong squad, with forward Nathan Salem and Slovakian imports Milan Kolena and Adrian Palak amongst those at their disposal.

Immediately after faceoff, Sheffield established a lead in the game when Salem slotted home just seventeen seconds into the period, left winger Andrew Hirst quickly linking up with Kolena to assist. Stunned by this welcome, the Warriors searched for an equaliser and achieved it as skilled left winger Ben Campbell beat netminder Brandon Stones on 7:54 following hard work from forward Callum Watson. In spite of the Warriors’ work ethic, the Steeldogs remained dangerous in front of Mark Turnbull’s net with forwards Duncan Speirs, Liam Charnock and Cameron Brownley each taking their turn to test Whitley’s defensive unit before Palak chimed a shot against the metalwork to cause the visitors further concern. Rallying on the back of this shot, the Warriors forced a save from Stones and Campbell continued to be a persistent threat but it was Sheffield who leapt ahead of their opposition, Salem again the man on target as Hirst assisted alongside defenceman Jamie Scott to make it 2-1 before the end of the first period.

A tripping penalty called against blue liner Thomas Relf early in the middle stanza gave Whitley the chance to tie the scoring for a second time but instead, the outfit conceded a shorthanded goal when Kolena made the most of assistance from Hirst and Alternate Captain Tim Smith to net fifty two seconds after Relf’s departure from the ice. Steeldogs’ Captain Lewis Bell came close to adding a fourth to his side’s tally when a meticulous pass from Salem allowed the defenceman to ring the pipes before ‘D’ man Scott fired at Turnbull who remained composed. Unwilling to give up on the possibility of a second goal, Campbell then tried his luck for the Warriors but Stones made sure his effort was no more than a shot. Again though, the Steeldogs widened the margin between themselves and their visitors as Palak made it 4-1 on 32:55, forward Joe Cross and Player-Coach Ben Morgan with the assists. Responding to this goal, the Warriors hit back just under three minutes later when Ross Douglass broke from Whitley’s defensive zone to pick out fellow forward Anthony Wetherell who beat Stones to reduce his team’s deficit to two goals; blue liner Liam Smedley also assisting. A clipping penalty for Kolena on 37:16 presented Whitley with the advantage but this power play made little difference to the Warriors as a delayed tripping call against stand-in Captain Shaun Kippin resulted in Sheffield’s left winger Charnock going it alone twenty seven seconds later to make it 5-2. Unable to counter with an additional skater, the Warriors headed in with much work to do in the final period.

Going shorthanded when forward Ben Richards earned himself a clipping penalty in the second minute of the third stanza, Whitley worked incredibly hard to prevent a sixth goal from the home team with Salem and Charnock striving to wear down the Warriors’ defence. Another chance for Palak saw his effort denied by the metalwork again whilst the Warriors continued to seek out a third goal. Close to the midpoint of the period, Speirs received a pass from Salem to beat Turnbull and two minutes later the netminder switched places with backup Jordan Boyle to allow him some valuable ice time. Working Stones again, Campbell unleashed a shot to force a glove save but the Steeldogs were quick on the counterattack and looked to challenge Boyle prior to another opportunity for Palak who found himself inches away from grabbing his second goal of the game. Although under pressure, the Warriors prevented the Steeldogs from adding to the 6-2 score line and, as such, the final buzzer sounded to confirm Whitley’s respectable defeat to last season’s league champions.

Shots on goal
Steeldogs:    38
Warriors:      22

Nathan Salem (2+1), Milan Kolena (1+1), Liam Charnock (1+0), Duncan Speirs(1+0), Adrian Palak (1+0),  Andrew Hirst (0+3), Ben Morgan (0+1), Joe Cross (0+1),  Jamie Scott (0+1), Tim Smith (0+1)

Ben Campbell (1+0), Anthony Wetherell (1+0), Callum Watson (0+1), Liam Smedley (0+1), Ross Douglass (0+1)

Penalty minutes
Steeldogs:     4
Warriors:       2

Man of the Match
Steeldogs:  Liam Charnock
Warriors:   Ben Campbell

Referee:       Andrew Miller
Linesman:   Emma Sanders
Linesman:   Alice Stanley


Kyle Ross and Ross Kennedy
Kyle Ross and Ross Kennedy. Photo by IceHockeyMedia

Whitley Warriors claimed their second victory of the season with a 4-2 away win over Blackburn Hawks on Sunday evening.

Facing off against Steven Duncombe’s men, Whitley were disappointed to be trailing to the Hawks’ sixteen-man team after just forty nine seconds when Blackburn’s two-way player Adam Barnes pounced after a faceoff to fire the puck top shelf, Alternate Captain Bobby Streetly assisting. Subsequently, a crosscheck from Czech forward Petr Valusiak allowed Whitley a power play but it was only eight seconds after the Hawks’ penalty was terminated that Warrior Jordan Barnes equalised, slotting the puck beneath young netminder Harrison Walker following a pass from Player-Coach David Longstaff to make it 1-1. However, Blackburn regained their lead just over three minutes later when forward Adam Barnes received the puck from Player-Assistant Coach James Neil to outdo Turnbull for a second time, prompting a change of netminder for Whitley as backup Jordan Boyle took Turnbull’s place. A charging penalty for Blackburn’s experienced forward Aaron Davies appeared to give Whitley the break they needed but the Warriors’ power play lasted all of thirty seconds as referee Adam Hands called Alternate Captain Sam Zajac to the sin bin for hooking. Despite this, Whitley’s advantage was restored when Hawks’ skilled forward James Royds joined his teammate on 9:33 to allow the Warriors a power play of four-on-three. Both teams returned to full strength unscathed and with the aim to add to their tallies; the home team sensing that their 2-1 lead was too fine a margin on which to pin their hopes. With Adam Barnes continuing to trouble Whitley’s defence, the Warriors sought to channel their attacking play through left winger Ben Campbell in their quest for an equaliser. A roughing penalty for versatile forward Kyle Ross awarded Duncombe’s men an additional skater on 15:51 but the Warriors were unwavering on the penalty kill to ensure there were no unwelcome alterations to the score line. Soon after Whitley returned to full strength, both teams scrambled for control of the puck and some sturdy netminding from Boyle prevented Blackburn from establishing a two-goal lead late in the period.

Starting strongly, the Warriors set out to cause problems for the Hawks in the second stanza which grew to be fiery as play became end-to-end. Finding the balance, both teams tested their opposition netminders and yet neither side were able to add to the scoreboard. A holding penalty for defenceman Craig Lutkevitch handed Whitley a power play on 34:24 and the Warriors threw everything into offence, hitting the bar to provide a tense moment for shot stopper Walker. Both teams then lost a man to the sin bin as Warrior Anthony Wetherell and Hawk Rick Ravey were sidelined for roughing but there was little that either could do to alter the 2-1 score line when they returned to the ice just nineteen seconds before the break.

A tripping penalty for Blackburn’s forward James Riddoch in the final period resulted in another failed power play for David Longstaff’s men but the Warriors drew level shortly afterwards when Campbell’s slap shot rocketed past Walker to make it 2-2 courtesy of Watson. Forty seconds later, Hawks’ Captain Luke Boothroyd made way for delaying the game and the Warriors took the lead as Campbell teamed up with Longstaff to assist defenceman Zajac. The Hawks then suffered a further setback when Valusiak headed to the sin bin for holding sticks but the Warriors were unable to achieve a second consecutive power play goal and instead lost Kippin to the penalty box for hooking before Valusiak’s return to the ice. In spite of this, Whitley reaped the rewards of their momentum on 53:23 when Kippin carved out an opportunity for Campbell who fired the puck beyond Walker to make it 4-2. Though losing Campbell to the sin bin subsequent to this goal, the Warriors prevented the Hawks from scoring before Valusiak received a hooking penalty of 2+10 in the final stages of the game which meant that Whitley could finish with the upper hand to claim two points.

Progressing to seventh place with five points from nine league games, the Warriors will next be in action on Sunday 14th October when they take on Telford Tigers from 5pm at Hillheads.

Shots on goal
Hawks:         26
Warriors:     37

Adam Barnes (2+0), Bobby Streetly (0+1), James Neil (0+1)

Ben Campbell (2+1), Sam Zajac (1+0), Jordan Barnes (1+0), David Longstaff (0+2), Callum Watson (0+1), Shaun Kippin (0+1)

Penalty minutes
Hawks:        28
Warriors:    10

Man of the Match
Hawks:       Ross Kennedy
Warriors:   Sam Zajac
Referee:       Adam Hands
Linesman:   Callum Neenan
Linesman:   Faye Andrews