Whitley Warriors lost out in a narrow 5-4 overtime defeat to local rivals Billingham Stars at The Forum on Sunday evening.
Travelling with a line-up which included current in-form forwards DJ Good and Callum Watson, as well as starting shot stopper Jordan Boyle, Whitley Warriors faced off against Billingham Stars’ seventeen-man team which boasted the skill of top points scorer Chris Sykes, forward Michael Bowman and young forward Ethan Hehir.
With both teams racing into the action from faceoff, the Warriors soon found themselves shorthanded as Watson was sidelined for interference on 1:01. Hard work from netminder Boyle and his defence ensured that Billingham did not take the lead but Whitley were restored to full strength for all of seventy one seconds before forward Kyle Ross was punished for holding the stick. Though coming close to achieving a breakaway goal through left winger Ben Campbell and Canadian Phil Edgar whilst weathering Billingham’s attacking play, the Warriors killed this penalty only for Ross to be called back to the sin bin for interference on 7:49. Carving out opportunities in spite of their penalty kill, the Warriors continued to build momentum after their return to full strength and opened the scoring on 11:38 as Player-Coach David Longstaff tapped home forward Shaun Kippin’s rebounded shot after neat work from Campbell. A check from behind from Billingham’s forward Sam Warnock moments later saw defenceman Josh Maddock vent his fury alongside Alternate Captain Jordan Barnes as the Star received a penalty of 2+10 for his actions. After failing to capitalise, matters were made worse for Whitley as Billingham gained a 5-on-3 power play when Barnes was made to sit out for unsportsmanlike conduct whilst Kippin was punished for a slashing offence against Latvian forward Kristers Bormanis. Although unable to score with two additional skaters, the Stars equalised fifty six seconds after Whitley had killed both penalties, forward Michael Bowman firing from a faceoff into the bottom right corner of Boyle’s net on 18:09. Taking heart from this, forward Cain Taylor sent his team into the lead twenty four seconds later, tapping in Bowman’s blue line shot to make it 2-1. Though given some reprieve when an interference call was made against Lithuanian Edgar Protčenko on 19:46, the Warriors headed in at the break with a one-goal deficit to overturn.
Despite returning on the power play, Whitley conceded Sykes’ shorthanded goal on 21:08 as Boyle saved the forward’s snappy shot before being pulled back into his net by momentum whilst in possession of the puck to make it 3-1. Responding, Whitley worked tirelessly in their quest for a second goal whilst maintaining their defensive efforts, Alternate Captain Sam Zajac epitomising his team’s work ethic throughout. As such, it was not long before the Warriors pulled it back to 3-2, this time Watson’s failed attempt collected by Barnes who drilled the puck home on 24:19. Seeking an equaliser, the Warriors were soon handed a power play when Bormanis was punished for hooking after preventing Captain Dean Holland’s attacking play. Repeatedly testing Flavell, forwards Edgar, Campbell and Good strove to make the most of their team’s advantage by breaking down the Stars’ defence whilst Zajac tried several blue line shots which went wide of their mark. Persevering, the Warriors eventually reaped the rewards of their offensive work eight seconds after Bormanis was restored to the ice, this time Zajac assisting Watson on 30:17. After another unsuccessful power play, Whitley found the target over three minutes after Billingham returned to full strength when Zajac tapped the puck into the bottom left of Flavell’s net to give Whitley a 4-3 lead on 36:42. Just over a minute later, forward James Moss was punished for tripping but the Stars remained unfazed and fired at Boyle who pulled off an outstanding save to keep his team ahead. The netminder’s efforts were in vain, however, as moments later Sykes drove the puck beneath Boyle to claim his second shorthanded goal of the evening courtesy of talented young prospect Ethan Hehir, making it 4-4 at the second interval.
Gaining a power play on 42:41 when Protčenko made way for holding, Whitley frantically searched for a winning goal, with Campbell, Longstaff and Kippin amongst those battling against Billingham’s resolute defence. Whitley then went shorthanded themselves when defenceman Martin Crammond was sinbinned for tripping but the Warriors parried the puck out of their zone time and again to contend with Billingham’s offensive work. Appearing dangerous in front of the net, Sykes came close to snatching a breakaway opportunity but an offside call saw him take his frustrations out on defenceman Liam Smedley, and Maddock retaliated to see both players incur minor penalties. Just over a minute later, Whitley were awarded a power play which was quickly enhanced to a 5-on-3 advantage as defenceman Matthew Campbell joined Sykes in the sin bin for interference before Protčenko sat out for clipping on 51:35. Some fast and furious play around the Stars’ net saw Campbell’s shot flicked away by Flavell’s blocker before Holland struck the bar and Edgar chimed the post. A long range effort from Zajac was caught by a composed Flavell and some intricate play from Latvian defenceman Rolands Gritāns was also not enough to beat the netminder. This attack prompted a timeout from Billingham on 56:22. A faceoff in the Stars’ offensive zone late in the game saw Boyle brought into the action yet again and some sturdy defending from Whitley ensured Billingham could not snatch a lead before Longstaff picked out Campbell at the other end of the ice, only for the Warrior to fail to execute his shot. Collecting the puck in the dying seconds, Whitley had one last, long range effort before the buzzer signalled overtime.
As overtime unfolded, Billingham’s real threat was Sykes who was eager to trouble Boyle whilst the Warriors sought Campbell who could not find the target. As Edgar also missed a fantastic opportunity to hand Whitley two points, the Warriors sensed an overtime winner and continued to attack but found that they had skated too far into their offensive zone when Sykes claimed the puck to play a cross-crease pass to Bormanis who netted with ease on 62:51 to present the Stars with their first derby win of the season.
Shots on goal
Chris Sykes (2+1), Michael Bowman (1+1), Cain Taylor (1+0), Kristers Bormanis (1+0), Edgar Protčenko (0+1), Ethan Hehir (0+1)
Sam Zajac (1+1), Callum Watson (1+1), David Longstaff (1+1), Jordan Barnes (1+0), Ben Campbell (0+2), DJ Good (0+1), Shaun Kippin (0+1)
Man of the Match
Stars: Chris Sykes
Warriors: Sam Zajac