Whitley Warriors achieved a 6-1 win over Nottingham Lions at Hillheads on Sunday to move into fifth place ahead of Solihull Barons.
Whilst the Warriors had an eighteen-man team at their disposal, Nottingham travelled to Whitley Bay Ice Rink with just thirteen skaters, besides first choice netminder Miles Finney and sixteen-year-old shot stopper Luca Sheldon.
The game fast and furious in the first period, Whitley pounced on an early lead as left winger Ben Campbell opened the scoring with just thirty six seconds played; long-serving Warrior DJ Good and defenceman Ross Connolly working with speed to assist. Almost scoring again on their second shift, the Warriors began to pepper Finney with shot after shot, repeatedly trying Nottingham’s defence before striking the bar. The puck fired in from distance, forward Callum Watson began to search for a tap-in but, fortune not on his side, the Warriors continued to pile the pressure onto Finney in their quest for a second goal. Struggling to break out of their defensive zone, the Lions’ chances were few and far between, though forwards Cameron Pywell and Harry Hopkins strove to level the scoring. When blue liner Lewis Jones was sidelined for crosschecking on 12:21, Nottingham found their successful penalty kill closely followed by Whitley’s second goal as left winger Campbell organised a faceoff to ensure his side won possession before rocketing a slap shot beyond Finney on 15:40. It took less than two minutes for a third goal to follow as Latvian defenceman Rolands Gritāns unleashed a superb shot from just inside the blue line which Captain Dean Holland tapped into the net. Feeling that a fourth goal was within touching distance, the Warriors persistently bombarded Finney who withstood the onslaught to keep the score line at 3-0 ahead of the break.
Just fifty four seconds into the middle section, Holland made way for hooking but, untroubled by Nottingham’s advantage, the Warriors returned to full strength and quickly benefitted from a delayed penalty against Alternate Captain Kieran Raynor as forward Shaun Kippin buried the puck into the bottom left of Finney’s net on 23:15 courtesy of Player-Coach David Longstaff. Nottingham strove to hit back and found themselves with the perfect opportunity when Whitley’s line change resulted in netminder Lawson being exposed to the Lions’ attack. Though shooting wide of their mark, Nottingham began to seek similar opportunities as Pywell, Hopkins and forward Ruskin Hughes attempted to make the most of breakaway play. Eventually replacing Lawson with backup netminder Jordan Boyle to allow each thirty minutes of ice time, the Warriors persisted in offence as defenceman Liam Smedley surged forwards to force a pad save from Finney before blue liner Phil Edgar cut through Nottingham’s defence to cause problems for the visitors. A late hit from Hopkins on 33:32 then allowed the Warriors a power play but the home team could not beat Finney who continued with his excellent display. Buoyed by their defensive exploits, the Lions tried their luck ahead of the second interval but a collision caused import defenceman Ruslan Cernych to sustain a cut to his ear which brought Nottingham’s attack to a halt to leave their four-goal deficit unchanged going into the third period.
As the Warriors strove to beat Finney for a fifth time, Campbell slipped through Nottingham’s defence but found that there was no one on hand to make his creative play count whilst Kippin’s close range efforts were also closed down. Wasteful on the power play when Lions’ forward Connor Hardy was sidelined for a late hit, Whitley made amends by netting thirty six seconds after Nottingham’s return to full strength; this time Watson dispatching the puck on 49:03 following Good’s prompt delivery. Calling a timeout, Nottingham reviewed their tactics and scored just over a minute later when Ruskin Hughes’ shot took a deflection into Boyle’s net after neat play from defenceman Joseph Gretton and hardworking Hopkins. Instantly retaliating, the Warriors went on the attack with Campbell and Alternate Captain Jordan Barnes working to assist Gritāns whose slick, long range shot completed Whitley’s scoring on 51:01. Play became heated in the final stages when Barnes was pulled to the ice by Cernych in front of Finney’s net; forward Ryan Sample angling for a fight and both Barnes and Kippin making their presence felt as the Lions’ frustrations began to show. Maintaining their effort however, the Warriors did not let up, firing a total of thirty two shots at Finney in the third period alone to see out their 6-1 victory over the shortbenched Lions.
Next in action on the 24th November, Whitley will face Solihull Barons at Hobs Moat Road before hosting Solway Sharks on Sunday 25th November.
Shots on goal
Ben Campbell (2+1), Rolands Gritāns (1+1), Dean Holland (1+0), Shaun Kippin (1+0), Callum Watson (1+0), DJ Good (0+2), David Longstaff (0+2), Sam Zajac (0+1), Ross Connolly (0+1), Kyle Ross (0+1), Jordan Barnes (0+1)
Ruskin Hughes (1+0), Joseph Gretton (0+1), Harry Hopkins (0+1)
Man of the Match
Warriors: Ross Connolly
Lions: Miles Finney
Referee: Alexander Stewart
Linesman: Kieran Wrench
Linesman: Craig Davison