Whitley Warriors recorded an agonising 6-5 defeat to Solihull Barons on Saturday before suffering a 6-4 loss to Solway Sharks on home ice.
Travelling to Hobs Moat Road with just sixteen skaters, first choice shot stopper Richie Lawson and backup Jordan Boyle, the Warriors found themselves without defencemen Sam Zajac, Liam Smedley and Josh Maddock besides forwards Anthony Wetherell, Ross Douglass and Ben Richards, although returnee blue liner Harry Harley was available for this clash. By comparison, the Barons took to the ice with a strong squad which included new addition Paul Stanley, top points scorer Niklas Ottosson and in-form goal scorer Luke Brittle.
Making a positive start to the game despite a delayed faceoff, the Warriors hit Solihull hard in the opening minutes when left winger Ben Campbell fired Whitley into the lead after a fantastic pass from Alternate Captain Jordan Barnes on 2:37. Stunned, the Barons laboured to overcome their disappointment and it did not take the side too long to retaliate as Luke Brittle equalised just under four minutes later when fellow forward Ed Eaton and experienced Alternate Captain Marcus Maynard teamed up to outdo Whitley’s defensive play. Solihull’s celebrations proved short-lived however, as the hardworking Warriors grabbed a second goal just thirty five seconds later when Campbell returned the favour for Barnes who did not pass up the opportunity to achieve his fourth goal of the season. With both teams showing their ability in the early stages to make for a close game, the Barons were delighted to be handed a power play at the midpoint of the period when Whitley’s Captain Dean Holland was shown to the sin bin for roughing. Remaining compact in defence to deal with the threat that Solihull posed, the Warriors successfully killed this penalty prior to hitting the target for a third time, this time versatile forward Ryan Sample the scorer as DJ Good demonstrated his creativity following a pass from astute defenceman Ross Connolly.
Heading in at the end of the first period with a 3-1 lead, the Warriors were keen to maintain their work ethic in the middle stanza but were frustrated to find their play fragmented by penalties as Player-Coach David Longstaff was sinbinned for crosschecking on 23:22. Seven seconds after returning to full strength, Whitley ran into penalty trouble again, though this time the Barons were also at fault as both Warrior Holland and Solihull’s Slovakian forward Filip Supa were sidelined for roughing and crosschecking respectively. These penalties served, Whitley then handed the Barons another power play just over two minutes later when defenceman Martin Crammond was sinbinned for interference. Though unable to capitalise with the additional skater, Daniel Brittle’s men gained sufficient momentum to reduce their deficit to just one goal soon after this penalty had been served; Ottosson skating straight down the middle of the ice to allow two-way player Matthew Maurice to slot the puck through the five hole on 34:51. Empowered by this goal, Solihull wasted little time in levelling the scoring as Captain Josh Bruce netted from an acute angle following build up play from forwards Macaulay Halford and Adam Brittle. Their lead erased, Whitley were further disappointed when the Barons crept ahead in the contest on 38:54 as Eaton linked up with Luke Brittle for a second time to present Ottosson with the perfect opportunity to fire past Lawson. Bewildered by this turn of events, the Warriors then suffered another setback when Holland showed his frustration at a holding call to earn himself an additional ten-minute misconduct penalty ahead of the second interval.
Taking to the ice for the third period, Whitley prevented the Barons from making the most of their additional skater and sought to claw their way back into the contest when they were restored to full strength. Extinguishing Solihull’s offensive play to ensure they did not fall too far behind, the Warriors strove to grab a power play goal when Maynard incurred a minor for holding and, although unable to find the net with the advantage, Longstaff’s line-up remained determined to draw level and did so just twenty seven seconds after the Barons returned to full strength as Campbell accomplished his second goal of the game courtesy of his player-coach and forward Shaun Kippin. The score line 4-4, play shifted in favour of the Warriors as the outfit battled their way back into the lead less than two minutes later when Campbell secured his hat trick courtesy of Longstaff and Connolly. Unwilling to let the points slip from their grasp, Solihull showed their resilience with an equaliser from Halford on 58:35, the forward supported in his effort by Adam Brittle and defenceman Maynard. Just twenty seconds after his goal, Halford clashed with Barnes and the pair dropped the gloves but it was the Warrior who triumphed in this instance before both players received 2+2 for fighting. The game in its final stages, neither team were able to snatch a late winner which resulted in a five minute overtime period for the close contenders.
Heading into overtime shorthanded as Latvian defenceman Rolands Gritāns sat out for tripping, the Warriors opted for Longstaff, Campbell and versatile forward Kyle Ross against the Barons. After surviving their penalty kill, Whitley pursued a game-winning goal but this feat proved incredibly difficult as Solihull created more chances than their visitors. A timeout for Whitley encouraged the side to test Brittle but the shot stopper saved the Warriors’ best attempt before calling a timeout of his own with just five seconds of the period remaining. This team talk making little difference, the game remained 5-5 at the end of overtime to see the teams endure penalty shots.
Stepping up for the Barons, Bruce slipped the puck past Lawson only for his effort to be matched by Canadian Phil Edgar. Eighteen-year-old forward Andrew Haywood then sent his team into the lead before Campbell unleashed a shot of his own to defeat Brittle. After both Ottosson and Holland missed out on their chance to bury the puck, Luke Brittle’s successful penalty shot was followed by Campbell’s saved attempt to confirm Solihull’s victory, leaving the Warriors to return home with a well-deserved point.
Shots on goal
Luke Brittle (2+1), Macaulay Halford (1+1), Niklas Ottosson (1+1), Matthew Maurice (1+0), Josh Bruce (1+0), Marcus Maynard (0+2), Ed Eaton (0+2), Adam Brittle (0+2)
Ben Campbell (3+1), Jordan Barnes (1+1), Ryan Sample (1+0), Ross Connolly (0+2), David Longstaff (0+2), DJ Good (0+1), Shaun Kippin (0+1)
Man of the Match
Barons: Matthew Maurice
Warriors: Ben Campbell
Referee: Adam Hands
Linesman: Alice Stanley
Linesman: Mariusz Kowal
Taking to the ice on Sunday evening following this defeat, Whitley Warriors headed out with the aim to build on Saturday’s overtime loss but found themselves without defencemen Rolands Gritāns, Martin Crammond, and Lawson Glasby as well as forwards Jamie Ord and Ben Richards, although Alternate Captain Sam Zajac was available for this clash having missed out on Saturday night’s fixture.
Achieving possession shortly after faceoff, the Warriors looked to test Solway’s starting shot stopper Jordan McLaughlin with a long range shot which pinged off the Shark’s post before left winger Ben Campbell turned on the skill to challenge the visitors. The opening moments of the game proved promising for the home team as McLaughlin was again called into action, snapping the puck out of the air after a neat shot from forward Callum Watson. This appeared to cause some concern for blue liner Josh Grieveson who began to force the Warrior away from goal as Whitley’s attack continued but, despite these attempts, it was clear that David Longstaff’s line-up were lacking their usual pace and intensity. As such, Whitley were forced back into defence and, after struggling to regain possession in the corners, the side fell behind as Canadian Cale Tanaka teamed up with left winger Steven Moore to pick out zealous Alternate Captain Ross Murray who fired his side into the lead on 3:12. The momentum with the Sharks, forward Connor Henderson came incredibly close to doubling his team’s lead but found his attempts quashed before Grieveson was sidelined for holding to hand the Warriors a power play. Unable to capitalise with the additional skater, Whitley’s advantage was enhanced when defenceman Lewis Baldwin joined his teammate after incurring a penalty for delaying the game just thirty one seconds later. Despite this 5-on-3 situation, Longstaff’s men could not find a way to surpass the hardworking Sharks who returned to full strength with their 1-0 lead intact. Moments later, it was the turn of Warrior Ryan Sample to sit out for a high sticks offence and Solway were eager to punish his misdemeanour, this time Captain Struan Tonnar scrapping for possession in front of netminder Richie Lawson before eventually hustling the puck into the net on 11:40. Realising that a quick response to this goal was needed, the Warriors hit back just forty five seconds later to make it 2-1 as Zajac netted from close range following assists from Longstaff and versatile defenceman Phil Edgar. Whitley’s defenceman Harry Harley picked up a crosschecking penalty shortly afterwards as the blue liner worked hard to prevent the Sharks from extending their lead but, with thirty eight seconds of their power play remaining, Tonnar was sidelined for holding to level the playing field. With this period a slow one for the Warriors, the side filed in just one goal behind Solway but with much work to do on their return to the ice.
Though starting the second period with seventeen seconds of their advantage remaining, the Warriors could not create the equaliser they were looking for and instead found themselves further adrift when Murray’s shot rebounded off the boards, allowing him the chance to collect the puck for a second attempt at slotting home which he did with ease, Tanaka and Moore assisting once again. Shortly after this goal, the Sharks went shorthanded as netminder McLaughlin picked up a minor penalty for delaying the game but the Warriors were unable to make the most of this opportunity and soon found themselves a man down when Edgar was sidelined for hooking. Whilst working hard to kill this penalty, Longstaff’s men strove to claw back a goal when Campbell raced clear of Solway’s defence only for his shot to get caught beneath McLaughlin. As Whitley began to endure increasing pressure from the Sharks following their return to full strength, defenceman Ross Connolly fought in vain to prevent Tanaka from claiming possession behind Lawson’s net but the Canadian would not be beaten and supplied the puck to Murray who delivered the final blow to complete his hat trick. Making amends with seventy five seconds of the middle stanza remaining, Edgar and Captain Dean Holland rapidly engaged in skilled play before linking up with Campbell who coolly slotted the puck past McLaughlin to make it 4-2 ahead of the second interval.
Realising the importance of being first to score in the third period, the Warriors were pleased to gain a power play when Solway’s defenceman Kyle Horne was found guilty of interference on 45:05. Making their advantage count, Harley fired home his rebounded shot to take his side within a goal of the opposition after quick build up play from Longstaff and Alternate Captain Jordan Barnes. Beginning to pile the pressure onto Solway, the Warriors created far more chances than they had in the first two periods and forward Shaun Kippin came agonisingly close to scoring but was closed down by the Sharks’ diligent defence. With McLaughlin made to work hard during this period, Whitley’s offensive play took its toll on the netminder as Campbell battled for the puck to finally play in Holland whose backhanded shot made it 4-4. The Warriors’ celebrations were cut short however when Solway regained their lead just fifty nine seconds later, this time Slovakian Peter Gápa dancing through Whitley’s defence before slicing the puck into the top left of Lawson’s net courtesy of forward Iain Bowie. Though aiming to draw level again, the Warriors’ momentum dwindled and their defeat was confirmed on 58:26 when forward Scott Henderson snatched a sixth for his side following slick play from forwards Connor Henderson and Rick Bentham. Calling a timeout with fifty four seconds left on the clock, the Warriors pulled Lawson from his net to ice an additional skater but, in spite of their best efforts, Whitley could not find a goal and were further frustrated when Grieveson knocked Longstaff’s stick out of his hand; Barnes quick to the defence of his player-coach in consequence.
It was only when the game was over however, that the simmering tension completely boiled over, resulting in several altercations between a number of players on both sides.
Shots on goal
Ben Campbell (1+1), Dean Holland (1+1), Sam Zajac (1+0), Harry Harley (1+0), David Longstaff (0+2), Phil Edgar (0+2), Liam Smedley (0+1), Jordan Barnes (0+1)
Ross Murray (3+0), Peter Gapa (1+0), Struan Tonnar (1+0), Scott Henderson (1+0), Steven Moore (0+3), Cale Tanaka (0+4), Josh Grieveson (0+1), Iain Bowie (0+1), Connor Henderson (0+1), Rick Bentham (0+1)
Man of the Match
Warriors: Ryan Sample
Referee: David Emmerson
Linesman: Mark Bone
Linesman: Callum Neenan