Derby Delight for Warriors as Whitley Bounce Back

Rolands Gritāns & Jordan Barnes crash the net

Rolands Gritāns & Jordan Barnes crash the net. Photo by IceHockeyMedia.

After suffering an 8-1 road defeat to Sheffield Steeldogs on Saturday evening, Whitley Warriors achieved a 5-3 win over local rivals Billingham Stars at Hillheads on Sunday.

Making the trip to Ice Sheffield with nineteen skaters, David Longstaff’s line-up boasted the skill of first choice shot stopper Richie Lawson, left winger Ben Campbell and hardworking defenceman Ross Connolly, though the side were again missing suspended Captain Dean Holland. Likewise, the Steeldogs took to the ice with a strong squad which included top points scorer Milan Kolena, top goal scorer Ashley Calvert and forward Duncan Speirs.

Proving problematic opposition in the opening stages of this fixture, the Warriors instantly sought to trouble Sheffield’s netminder Brandon Stones and succeeded as Campbell wove his way through the Steeldogs’ defence to force a save from the shot stopper. Appearing dangerous in the early moments of the game, Whitley maintained their work ethic after a fruitless power play to seize the lead as Campbell netted following some excellent puck control to make it 1-0 with support from Player-Coach Longstaff and blue liner Connolly on 10:23. Despite being reduced to four men shortly after this goal when defenceman Thomas Relf was sidelined for elbowing, the Steeldogs were keen to get back on level terms and did so as Speirs achieved a shorthanded breakaway goal assisted by Slovakian winger Adrian Palak and Player-Coach Ben Morgan on 14:32. With this period an even one as both teams worked to sustain their foothold in the game, the outfits headed in with a goal apiece at the first interval.

Though returning to the ice with the aim to recover their lead, the Warriors struggled to make their power play count when Kolena was dealt a tripping penalty on 24:29 and, just twenty five seconds after Sheffield were restored to full strength, Whitley went shorthanded themselves as defenceman Josh Maddock was punished for high sticks. Sensing an opportunity to get ahead in the game, the Steeldogs forced a sequence of impressive saves from Lawson but a second minor for too many men just fifty seconds later proved too much for the Warriors as Sheffield were quick to capitalise on their 5-on-3 power play; left winger Calvert achieving a 2-1 lead for his side courtesy of Kolena and Morgan at the midpoint of the contest. Just over two minutes later, Whitley found their deficit increased to two goals when Calvert bagged his second of the evening, this time Kolena assisting alongside Captain Lewis Bell. Gaining momentum, the defending champions appeared unstoppable as forward Cameron Brownley added a fourth to the Steeldogs’ tally on 36:17 following support from Calvert and Palak. With less than two minutes remaining in the period, Sheffield confirmed their dominance when a delayed hooking penalty against forward Callum Watson allowed Nathan Salem to make it 5-1 before the break, Morgan assisting alongside left winger Andrew Hirst on this occasion.

Whilst the Warriors began the final period with netminder Jordan Boyle, Sheffield immediately picked up from where they left off, scoring just thirty seven seconds in as Alternate Captain Tim Smith found the target courtesy of Calvert and Kolena who respectively achieved their second and third assists of the evening. Fifty five seconds later, Sheffield’s seventh goal was delivered by Brownley as Bell teamed up with left winger Liam Charnock to assist. With no way back for the Warriors, Whitley conceded an eighth on 47:58, Calvert completing his hat trick when Smith turned assist alongside Kolena. The game all but won, Sheffield continued to strive for a ninth goal whilst Longstaff’s men persevered to test Stones’ defence and reinstated Lawson between the pipes. It was not long after that the Steeldogs also called for a change of netminder, switching Stones for sixteen-year-old Charlie Renzi. Try as they might, the Warriors could not surpass the young shot stopper and instead ran into penalty trouble in the final stages of the encounter as Latvian defenceman Rolands Gritāns was sinbinned for delaying the game on 57:28 whilst fellow ‘D’ man Maddock incurred a minor for the same offence just thirteen seconds before Gritāns’ return to the ice to see Whitley conclude their 8-1 defeat shorthanded.

Shots on goal
Steeldogs:    49
Warriors:      29

Ashley Calvert (3+2), Cameron Brownley (2+0), Tim Smith (1+1), Duncan Speirs (1+0), Nathan Salem (1+0), Milan Kolena (0+4), Ben Morgan (0+3), Lewis Bell (0+2), Adrian Palak (0+2), Andrew Hirst (0+1), Liam Charnock (0+1)

Ben Campbell (1+0), David Longstaff (0+1), Ross Connolly (0+1)

Penalty minutes
Steeldogs:   6
Warriors:     8

Man of the Match
Steeldogs:  Ashley Calvert
Warriors:    Ben Campbell

Returning to Hillheads to face local rivals Billingham Stars on Sunday evening, Whitley Warriors had at their disposal a similar line-up to that which faced Sheffield Steeldogs on Saturday but with the addition of Captain Dean Holland who made his return from suspension. The Stars, meanwhile, made the trip up the A19 with a short bench which included first choice shot stopper James Flavell, top points scorer Chris Sykes and recent signing Craig Thurston, whilst defencemen Andy Finn, Richie Thornton and Thomas Keeley were amongst those missing for the Teesside outfit.

DJ Good releases the puck
DJ Good releases the puck. Photo by IceHockeyMedia.

Creating some early chances through left winger Ben Campbell and forward Callum Watson, Whitley were forced back into their defensive zone as Billingham began to increasingly test netminder Richie Lawson. Eventually breaking out into some offensive play of their own, the Warriors troubled Flavell with a long range effort from Captain Holland. Battling back, Stars’ seventeen-year-old forward Ethan Hehir saw his shot snapped out of the air by Lawson. Keen to take the lead, Whitley’s attacking play culminated in Rolands Gritāns thrashing for the puck in front of Flavell’s net whilst Billingham showed fortitude in defence to ensure the Latvian defenceman could not send the Warriors ahead in the contest. Alternate Captain Sykes then found himself clear of Whitley’s defence but he shot without success before a fantastic effort from Thurston challenged Lawson’s quick reactions. Responding, the Warriors had their fair share of narrow misses as Alternate Captain Jordan Barnes came close before Watson’s backhanded shot was saved. Further creativity from the Warriors led to Holland rushing in towards the Stars’ net which prompted a fiery reaction from defenceman Matthew Campbell. Mistaking the puck to be in the net shortly after this incident, the Warriors were spurred on to take a 1-0 lead as a long range effort from Holland was tapped in by forward DJ Good on 19:04 following a successful faceoff from Watson.

Ethan Hehir tracked by Josh Maddock
Ethan Hehir tracked by Josh Maddock. Photo by IceHockeyMedia.

Taking this narrow lead into the second stanza, the Warriors doubled their tally fifty seconds in as Ben Campbell danced past Billingham’s defence to bury the puck unassisted. Moments later, the Stars were unable to capitalise when forward Kyle Ross was sidelined for holding and were punished as Whitley’s return to full strength saw defenceman Harry Harley answer Player-Coach David Longstaff’s call for the puck which was subsequently picked up by Campbell who fired over Flavell’s left shoulder to make it 3-0 on 24:56. Seeking a goal on the breakaway, forward Michael Bowman unleashed a shot which Lawson collected but defenceman Liam Smedley was believed to have been brought down by Sykes in the process, sparking a heated reaction from Alternate Captain Jordan Barnes. Whilst this did not warrant a penalty, forward Shaun Kippin was sinbinned for hooking on 34:10 but again, Billingham could not make their power play count. A collision behind Flavell’s net led to a tripping call against Ben Campbell just over a minute later but the Warrior was soon joined by Stars’ young defenceman James Hellens who incurred a slashing penalty on 38:34 whilst fighting for the puck along the boards. Seeing out the remainder of the period with the additional skater as a result, Whitley filed from the ice with a 3-0 lead at the second interval.

Ben Campbell celebrates his first goal with the bench
Ben Campbell celebrates his first goal with the bench. Photo by IceHockeyMedia.

Heading into the final period with confidence, the Warriors were eager to extend their lead and set out to create opportunities in front of Flavell’s net, with Holland, Watson and Campbell appearing particularly threatening for the home team. However, the Stars maintained their efforts on Lawson’s net to make the game a difficult one. Awarded a power play on 47:32 when Whitley were handed a bench minor for too many men, Billingham gained momentum and scored forty six seconds later as forward James Moss buried the puck beyond Lawson after a neat pass from hardworking forward Thurston. Moments later, a late hit called against defenceman Matthew Campbell allowed Whitley the additional skater but the Warriors were left to rue their fruitless power play when Thurston took the Stars within a goal of their local rivals courtesy of Canadian Kevin Boyd. With increased urgency, Whitley recovered their two-goal cushion as Longstaff received the puck from Ben Campbell to fire around Flavell on 56:06 to make it 4-2. Unrelenting, the Stars hit back with a third goal less than two minutes later as Moss slotted home following hard work from Captain Michael Elder. Playing for overtime, Billingham pulled Flavell from his net before calling a timeout with fifteen seconds remaining but the Warriors pushed play back into the Stars’ defensive zone, allowing Good to deliver an unassisted empty net goal one second before the final buzzer to confirm Whitley’s 5-3 win.

Shots on goal
Warriors:   52
Stars:         44

Ben Campbell (2+1), DJ Good (2+0), David Longstaff (1+1), Callum Watson (0+1), Dean Holland (0+1), Harry Harley (0+1)

James Moss (2+0), Craig Thurston (1+1), Michael Elder (0+1), Kevin Boyd (0+1)

Penalty minutes
Warriors:   8
Stars:         4

Man of the Match
Warriors: Richie Lawson
Stars:        James Flavell