Whitley Warriors suffered a 7-4 NIHL North Cup defeat to Murrayfield Racers on Sunday evening.
Travelling to Murrayfield Ice Rink with sixteen skaters and netminder Jordan Boyle, Whitley Warriors matched their opposition in number, with suspended Alternate Captain Jordan Barnes, left winger Ben Campbell and defenceman Dan Pye amongst those missing.
Facing off against the Racers, the Warriors engaged in a battle throughout the first period and play quickly became end-to-end to see both teams evenly matched in the opening stages. Though there were some early chances for each side, it was Whitley who managed to take the lead, forward Ross Murray winning the puck along the boards to slip a pass to Canadian Phil Edgar who cut through Murrayfield’s defence at speed before burying a low shot to the right of netminder Mark McGill on 8:16. The game an incredibly close one, it was unsurprising that tempers flared between the two sides when defenceman Josh Maddock fell to the ice holding his face, forward Callum Watson venting his frustrations at Racers’ Alternate Captain Callum Boyd in the aftermath. This exchange fizzling out, neither side picked up a penalty and, as the game flowed, the Warriors continued to test McGill whilst their defence held out at the other end of the ice to allow Whitley a narrow 1-0 lead at the first interval.
After a close first period, the Warriors applied further pressure to netminder McGill in a bid to extend their lead, blue liner Harry Harley trying a high shot before Edgar attempted to outfox the Racers’ defence once more. Murrayfield countered with a rising shot from Boyd and then tried a wraparound which Boyle coolly stopped. Moments later, defenceman Craig Johnson was pushed in the back by versatile Racer Ross Borwick, prompting forward Niall Ryder to shove Murrayfield’s Archie Holmes to the ice. Borwick retaliated by grabbing Ryder around the neck, causing the duo to grapple and earn themselves penalties of 2+2 for fighting whilst Ryder picked up an additional two minutes for interference. On the back of this, Captain Dean Holland almost bagged himself a breakaway goal, only to see McGill make a pad save. Taking heart, Latvian defenceman Rolands Gritāns fired at the netminder, allowing forward Ben Richards the opportunity to beat the Racer with his rebounded shot on 33:26. His team trailing 2-0, Borwick tried a slap shot on his return to the ice without causing Boyle much trouble. Soon after, Whitley picked up a bench minor for too many men which was served by forward Ross Douglass and the side ran into further trouble when Maddock incurred a holding penalty after clashing with Racers’ Captain Joel Gautschi, awarding his opposition a two-man advantage in the process. Sensing their ability to get themselves back into the game, Murrayfield’s work ethic paid off soon after Whitley returned to four men, Boyd tapping home to reduce his team’s deficit to a single goal with just fifty two seconds left in the period.
The Racers wasted no time in levelling the scoring in the third stanza as Captain Gautschi netted on 40:49 courtesy of Boyd. Just under four minutes later, the home team took the lead for the first time in the game, forward Holmes tipping the puck into the net courtesy of right winger Michael Ireland to make it 3-2. The Warriors then gained their first power play when Gautschi was sidelined for tripping on 45:33. Despite this, Boyd broke away from Whitley’s defence to go one-on-one with Boyle who made an excellent save to keep his team in the game. Though Holland was sinbinned for interference on 46:53 which led to some 4-on-4 play before Gautschi’s return to the ice, the Warriors equalised less than a minute after returning to full strength, Murray striking the puck past McGill after build-up play between forwards Watson and Holland. Unwilling to give up on a victory, the Racers crashed Boyle’s net to edge ahead of Whitley on 50:39 as Gautschi collected his second of the evening, Boyd and Latvian defenceman Rihards Grigors supporting his effort on goal. Just under three minutes later, Boyle was beaten for a fifth time as Boyd extended his team’s lead to 5-3 to stun the Warriors further. Five seconds later, forward Anthony Wetherell was handed a match penalty for high sticks and Ryder simultaneously received a minor penalty for interference to give the Racers a 5-on-3 power play. Defiant in the face of adversity, Edgar rocketed a shorthanded shot beyond McGill after breaking clear of Murrayfield’s defence to take Whitley within one goal of the home side, Harley and Holland assisting. Unrelenting, Boyd quickly attempted to steer the puck home at the other end of the ice before Grigors shot at Boyle who made a glove save. Keen to claw their way back into the game, the Warriors threw themselves into the latter stages of the contest but the Racers were relentless and shortly after Grigors’ rebounded shot trickled away from Boyle, Boyd bagged his hat-trick to make it 6-4, seventeen-year-old forward Ethan Reid assisting alongside winger Sean Donaldson on 57:06. Just thirty one seconds after play resumed, the Racers achieved their seventh of the game as Gautschi sealed his hat-trick with a wraparound goal to leave the final result beyond doubt. The game grew heated soon after as Edgar clashed with forward Lewis Gold on 58:55 to pick up a penalty of 2+10 for roughing and unsportsmanlike conduct which meant that the Warriors concluded the game on the penalty kill before the final buzzer confirmed their 7-4 road defeat.
Shots on goal
Callum Boyd (3+2), Joel Gautschi (3+2), Archie Holmes (1+0), Sean Donaldson (0+2), Martyn Simpson (0+1), Lewis Gold (0+1), Michael Ireland (0+1), Ethan Reid (0+1), Rihards Grigors
Phil Edgar (2+0), Ross Murray (1+1), Ben Richards (1+0), Dean Holland (0+3), Callum Watson (0+1), Harry Harley (0+1), Rolands Gritāns (0+1),
Man of the Match
Racers: Callum Boyd
Warriors: Ross Murray