Whitley Warriors achieved a superb 7-2 away win against Blackburn Hawks on Sunday evening.
Travelling with eighteen skaters, Whitley Warriors’ line-up included starting netminder Jordan Boyle, top points scorer Ben Campbell and Alternate Captain Sam Zajac who linked up with the team following his debut for EIHL side Manchester Storm on Saturday. Meanwhile, Blackburn filed onto the ice with a great deal of talent in the form of Czech forwards Robin Kovar and Petr Valusiak, not to mention young netminder Harrison Walker and strong defenceman Ross Kennedy.
Making the best possible start to the first period, Whitley capitalised on their early possession as DJ Good eased the puck past Walker on 2:31 courtesy of fellow forward Callum Watson. Dominating in the opening minutes, the Warriors demonstrated their skill through some controlled play from Latvian defenceman Rolands Gritāns before stand-in Captain Shaun Kippin rocketed the puck towards goal, accidentally striking Hawk Lee Pollitt in the process. Growing into the contest, James Neil’s side began to trouble Boyle more frequently than before, Valusiak seeing his shot deflected before Jordan Bannon fired with intent. Left winger Campbell then teamed up with Kippin but Walker prevented the duo from doubling Whitley’s lead. At the other end of the ice, a chance for Hawks’ Alternate Captain Bobby Streetly allowed the Warriors to counter, Zajac driving forwards in the dying minutes of the stanza only for his shot to skim Walker’s glove. Kippin then saw his effort saved on the buzzer to leave the score line at 1-0 going into the middle stanza.
Looking to build on their first period performance, the Warriors doubled their lead when Hawks’ forward Aaron Davies was sinbinned for tripping on 26:30, hardworking defenceman Gritāns netting seventy six seconds into his team’s power play. However, shortly afterwards, a delay of the game penalty for blue liner Ross Connolly was swiftly followed by a minor misconduct penalty for Campbell. The Hawks beginning to build momentum on their 5-on-3 power play, defenceman Ross Kennedy halved his team’s deficit on 29:51 courtesy of Kovar and Captain Luke Boothroyd. A penalty for Gritāns then compounded the Warriors’ play, Boyle fortunately dealing with Alternate Captain James Royds’ quick-fire effort on goal. Pinging the post, the Hawks built from the back but Whitley soon countered through Zajac who broke away to challenge Walker without success. Undeterred, the Warriors finally reclaimed their two-goal lead on 36:08 when Canadian forward Phil Edgar set up Connolly who found the top corner of Walker’s net. Sixty one seconds later, Whitley edged even further ahead when a speculative shot from Watson surpassed the Hawks’ defence to send the Warriors in with a 4-1 lead at the second interval.
With Blackburn eager to recover lost ground in the third period, Whitley were placed under pressure as Connolly slipped, allowing forward James Riddoch to go one-on-one with Boyle. Missing his chance, Riddoch rapidly regained possession to chime the post and a scramble in front of Boyle’s net soon after saw defenceman Craig Lutkevitch force a pad save from the netminder. Finally reaping the rewards of their efforts, the Hawks bagged their second goal when Boothroyd fired through the five-hole on 43:56 to make it 4-2. Striving to kill Blackburn’s momentum, Player-Coach David Longstaff pulled off a neat move to set up Zajac which Walker anticipated. Despite this, Whitley struck moments later as Good claimed his second of the evening, this time Watson linking up with Alternate Captain Jordan Barnes to assist. Retaliating, Bannon fired at Boyle who headed the puck away but the Warriors added a sixth to their tally shortly afterwards, Campbell capitalising on a delayed penalty courtesy of ‘D’ man Josh Maddock. A hooking penalty for Streetly two minutes later then provided Whitley with a power play and the side capitalised as Good slotted home to achieve his hat-trick after a slick pass from Watson. With no way back for Blackburn in the time remaining, the Warriors comfortably saw out their 7-2 victory, recording twice as many shots as the Hawks in the closing period.
Shots on goal
Luke Boothroyd (1+1), Ross Kennedy (1+0), Robin Kovar (0+2), Jordan Bannon (0+1)
DJ Good (3+0), Callum Watson (1+4), Ben Campbell (1+1), Ross Connolly (1+0), Rolands Gritāns (1+0), Harry Harley (0+2), Phil Edgar (0+2), Kyle Hindmarsh-Ross (0+1), Jordan Barnes (0+1), David Longstaff (0+1), Josh Maddock (0+1)
Man of the Match
Hawks: Ross Kennedy
Warriors: DJ Good