Pushing Solway Sharks into overtime at the Dumfries Ice Bowl on Saturday evening, Whitley Warriors claimed a point from their 3-2 loss before accomplishing their first home victory of the season with a 3-1 win over Solihull Barons.
Making the trip with eighteen skaters to match the Sharks in number, Whitley had a strong line-up available to them, including long-serving Warrior DJ Good, left winger Ben Campbell and Alternate Captain Sam Zajac. Likewise, Solway were far from short of talent, with Captain Struan Tonnar, forward Rick Bentham and Canadian Cale Tanaka all available for this clash.
With both teams very much up for this contest, Whitley took to the ice and embraced the challenge ahead of them, cutting through Solway’s small neutral zone to challenge netminder Kyle Johnston in their search for an early lead. Though goaltender Richie Lawson also faced his fair share of shots from the Sharks, Whitley made the most of their chances to go ahead in the game as Campbell utilised his speed and skill to pick out Good who accomplished his fourth goal of the season on 6:11. Buoyed by this early success, the Warriors continued to put pressure on Johnston, with Campbell unsurprisingly at the forefront of Whitley’s offence and Alternate Captain Jordan Barnes also working hard to battle for possession. With both teams maintaining discipline for much of this period, it was only on 16:52 that the first penalty of the game was dished out as Good was sidelined for hooking. Working hard on the penalty kill, the Warriors then went one better when Campbell collected the puck to fire past Johnston; his shorthanded goal doubling Whitley’s lead just forty five seconds after Good was sent to the box.
Shortly after facing off for the second period, the Warriors ran into penalty trouble again, this time defenceman Ross Connolly guilty of crosschecking and interference to earn himself 2+2 for his misdemeanours. Placed on the penalty kill as a result, the Warriors successfully cleared their lines to prevent Solway from halving their deficit. Returning to full strength, the Warriors sensed that the game was theirs for the taking and increasingly challenged Johnston who put on an impressive display alongside defencemen Stuart Kerr and Liam Stenton. Play becoming end-to-end, Whitley’s forwards Callum Watson, Kyle Ross and Dean Holland were amongst those striving to find the target whilst the Sharks brought Lawson into the action in their search for a foothold in the contest. Solway were then pleased to gain an advantage when Whitley’s Canadian import Phil Edgar was sidelined for delaying the game at the midpoint of the period, although the Sharks were unable to make the most of this opportunity. With Johnston and Lawson dealing with everything that was thrown at them in this period, the Warriors filed from the ice at the break with their two-goal advantage intact.
Realising that they must do more to find a way past Whitley, Solway altered their systems and hit the Warriors hard in the opening moments of the final stanza to make it 2-1 on 41:38 when seventeen-year-old Lewis Houston found the net after quick work from fellow forwards Joe Coulter and Iain Bowie. The Sharks’ objective clear from the outset, Solway began to put Lawson to the test far more frequently than before but their attempts were repeatedly shut down by Whitley’s defence to make levelling the game a difficult task for the home team. However, with thirteen shots on the Warriors’ net in comparison to the four that Whitley managed in this period, it was only a matter of time before the Sharks’ hard work paid off, the side equalising on 55:58 as Bowie beat Lawson following a smart pass from industrious Captain Struan Tonnar. Disappointed to be back on level terms having led for most of the game, the Warriors tried to retaliate but, when grabbing a winner appeared unlikely, Longstaff called a timeout on 59:04 to review his team’s tactics. Try as they might, Whitley could not avoid three-on-three overtime. As both teams threw themselves into this period, play was once again even before an errant pass from the Warriors made contact with the linesman, allowing Tanaka to turn the puck into the path of Bentham who netted on 63:13 to secure a 3-2 victory and maximum points for the Sharks.
Shots on goal
Iain Bowie (1+1), Lewis Houston (1+0), Rick Bentham (1+0), Joe Coulter (0+1), Cale Tanaka (0+1), Struan Tonnar (0+1)
Ben Campbell (1+1), DJ Good (1+0)
Man of the Match
Sharks: Iain Bowie
Warriors: Richie Lawson
Referee: Michael Miller
Linesman: Amanda Murdoch
Linesman: Stuart Steele
Playing host to Solihull Barons on Sunday evening, Whitley Warriors were able to take to the ice with much the same line-up that had faced Solway Sharks on Saturday whilst Daniel Brittle’s men travelled to Hillheads without left winger Joe Henry, netminder Josh Nicholls and forward Stephen Heape.
Like most home games this season, the Warriors began with possession and immediately set their sights on goal, only to be denied by shot stopper Sam Hewitt. As Solihull interrupted Whitley’s creative play, a hard hit from Player-Coach David Longstaff on Swedish forward Niklas Ottosson made the desired impact to prevent the Barons from breaking out of their defensive zone. However, it was not long before the visitors moved the puck towards Richie Lawson’s net, prompting a crosscheck from Canadian Phil Edgar who was sinbinned with less than three minutes played. Absorbing some early pressure on the penalty kill, the Warriors were just eighteen seconds away from returning to full strength when the Barons edged ahead; Slovakian Filip Supa timing his pass perfectly to allow young two-way player Matthew Maurice to slot the puck past Lawson on 4:22. Hunting for possession in their quest to equalise, the Warriors suffered a further setback when Longstaff made a second hard hit along the boards, leading to an interference call from referee Steve Brown. Killing this penalty with success and even appearing a threat whilst shorthanded, the Warriors continued to attack as Longstaff re-entered the game, Edgar leading his side’s offence. After some frantic play in front of Hewitt’s net, forward DJ Good was then inches away from scoring when a low shot went wide of the post before Campbell fired high from the left circle in Solihull’s defensive zone. Reclaiming possession, Ottosson broke free and strode towards Lawson’s net with pace and skill only to be met by Latvian ‘D’ man Rolands Gritāns who prevented him from going any further. Gaining possession once again, Whitley wasted little time in progressing up the ice. A close range shot from Captain Dean Holland saw Whitley scrapping for the loose puck in front of Solihull’s net, sparking another frenzied attack which peaked when a Baron’s skate deflected a shot, forcing Hewitt to make the save. The score line 1-0 at the end of the first interval, Whitley had nothing to show for their efforts but headed in with hopes of equalising on their return to the ice.
Just forty eight seconds into the middle stanza, the Warriors incurred a bench minor for too many men but Solihull were met with strong defending which ensured that the Barons’ power play was fruitless. Continuing to search for a goal, Whitley were handed an advantage when Solihull’s Alternate Captain Marcus Maynard made way for interference but, even with the additional skater, Longstaff’s men struggled to leave their defensive zone; Good’s saved shot epitomising their wasteful spell. Just over two minutes after Maynard’s return to the ice, the Warriors went shorthanded when diligent defenceman Liam Smedley was punished for a trip on Ottosson. In the same way that Solihull had driven forwards on the penalty kill, the Warriors surged towards the Barons’ net and forced a pad save from Hewitt before firing several shots to again come incredibly close to scoring. Building momentum, the Warriors gained a second power play when Smedley rushed into Solihull’s defensive zone to draw a hooking offence from versatile defenceman Dale White on 30:11. Continuing to press, Longstaff played the puck to line mate Barnes who shot high over Hewitt’s net whilst Good and Holland saw their fair share of chances but could not convert. Returning to full strength, Solihull moved play back into their offensive zone but their desperation to find the target showed as forward Maurice clashed with Barnes. Applying this passion to achieve an equaliser, Gritāns unleashed a low blue line shot which buried itself in the bottom left of Hewitt’s net; Alternate Captain Sam Zajac and Longstaff with the assists. Play then became heated for a second time when Supa came close to scoring only to be prevented by defencemen Edgar, the duo exchanging shoves. Discipline sliding, Maurice incurred a hooking penalty to present the Warriors with another power play but, forced into their defensive zone, Edgar and Zajac reclaimed possession from Ottosson, only for Zajac to be sidelined for slashing. This allowed the Barons a short advantage on Maurice’s return but Whitley’s defence ensured that they were still on level terms when the period ended.
After Maynard picked up a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct on 40:00, Whitley generated momentum on the power play and scored thirty three seconds later, Zajac flicking the puck over Hewitt courtesy of Gritāns. A hooking penalty for Barnes saw Whitley go shorthanded but, as the teams battled it out along the boards, defencemen Ross Connolly and Daniel Harrison were punished for slashing and hooking respectively. These penalties coincidental, five-on-four play ensued, with Lawson soaking up the pressure from Supa, Captain Josh Bruce and forward Adam Brittle to maintain his side’s lead. Regaining possession on their return to full strength, the Warriors demonstrated excellent speed and skill to make life difficult for their opposition; forward Ryan Sample also trying his luck by guiding the puck close to Hewitt’s right post in an attempt to turn it into the net. With Gritāns steady in defence, cutting down the Barons’ chances and feeding the puck back to Whitley’s forwards, the Warriors proved problematic for Hewitt. Sensing Whitley’s domination, Barons’ Player-Coach Brittle called a timeout on 49:53 and his team resumed play with greater energy than before. Lawson was then called into action more frequently whilst the Warriors fought to challenge Hewitt at the other end of the ice and, after further attacking play, a shot fired at the Baron prompted treatment. Happy to continue, Hewitt waited for play to return to his side’s offensive zone before heading back to the bench in place of an additional skater. Play continuing, the puck was fired into Solihull’s defensive zone for Campbell to chase down with the Barons in hot pursuit. Skating around the back of the net in possession, the left winger picked out Kippin whose lateral pass to Longstaff evaded the player-coach to allow Maurice to take advantage. Bearing down on Lawson’s goal, the Baron left the puck to Bruce who missed out on his chance to shoot when Zajac and Longstaff both stretched across the ice in their efforts to prevent him from scoring. Maynard then gathered the puck but Campbell committed himself to blocking before Bruce passed to Harrison who was positioned on the blue line; the defenceman’s wayward slap shot allowing Zajac to find Campbell who fired into the empty net from the right wing with just sixteen seconds remaining. Voicing his frustrations at the end of the game, Player-Coach Brittle received a ten minute misconduct penalty to round off a difficult evening for the Barons.
Overjoyed with their three-point weekend, Whitley now find themselves in fifth position with ten points from thirteen games ahead of next weekend’s home fixture against Sheffield Steeldogs.
Shots on goal
Sam Zajac (1+2), Rolands Gritāns (1+1), Ben Campbell (1+0), David Longstaff (0+2)
Matthew Maurice (1+0), Filip Supa (0+1), Andrew Whitehouse (0+1)
Man of the Match
Warriors: Kyle Ross
Barons: Sam Hewitt
Referee: Steve Brown
Linesman: Vincent Tait
Linesman: Dave Farren