Whitley Warriors accomplished a 13-2 league win over Nottingham Lions at the National Ice Centre on Sunday evening to return to the top of NIHL North 1.
Travelling to Nottingham with sixteen skaters and netminders Richie Lawson and Jordan Boyle, Whitley found themselves up against the Lions’ seventeen-man team which included Captain Luke Thomas, Alternate Captain Cameron Pywell and netminder Thomas Hovell.
Assuming possession from faceoff, the Warriors quickly seized control of the game by opening their account through forward Ben Richards who slotted Adam Finlinson’s deflected shot past Hovell on 1:08. Further confident passing play between defenceman Craig Johnson and Canadian Phil Edgar led to Whitley doubling their lead on 3:52 as Captain Dean Holland scored a wraparound goal to add to Nottingham’s woes. Working to build on his team’s lead, Ross Douglass attempted to find a third but Hovell comfortably dealt with his effort before making a pad save to prevent forward Callum Watson from adding his name to the scoresheet. Striving to move play out of Nottingham’s defensive zone, forward Harry Hopkins tested Lawson but Whitley swiftly countered as Campbell linked up with line mate Finlinson who failed to surpass Hovell. Soon after, forward Callum Queenan gained possession from Anthony Wetherell and played a wide pass to Watson who snapped the puck into Hovell’s net to extend his team’s lead to 3-0 on 8:20. Finlinson backed up this play by driving the puck low towards Hovell and, shortly after his attempt was saved, it appeared that the Warriors had found the net for a fourth time only for their effort to be ruled out. Blue liner Harry Harley then attempted two long range shots which failed to have the desired effect before forward Niall Ryder battled his way through the Lions’ defence without reaping the rewards of his perseverance. Latvian defenceman Rolands Gritāns also set his sights on goal but, his shot failing to make its mark, play switched to Nottingham’s offensive zone where eighteen-year-old forward Jack Crowston found Lawson out of his net and adroitly punished this error on 18:26 courtesy of Pywell. Pleased to have achieved a goal, the Lions reduced their deficit further as Crowston turned assist for Pywell who surpassed Lawson to make it 3-2 sixty three seconds later.
Starting the middle stanza with a clear desire to increase their lead, the Warriors battled relentlessly in front of Hovell’s net, Edgar attempting a wraparound early in the period before Finlinson demonstrated his skill with yet another shot on target. Continuing Whitley’s prolonged offensive work, Gritāns tipped the puck home to give his side a 4-2 lead just before the midpoint of the period. Nottingham then countered as Crowston played the puck across to Hopkins who forced a save from Lawson. Maintaining control, the Warriors retaliated with further attacking play which paid off as Campbell jabbed the puck beyond Hovell courtesy of Finlinson on 32:25 to restore his team’s three-goal lead. Shortly after this goal, Lawson was replaced by fellow shot stopper Jordan Boyle to allow each netminder their fair share of ice time. Soon after, Finlinson sent Hovell sprawling to make a save but there was little the netminder could do when the forward clinked a shot against Hovell’s left post moments later to make it 6-2, the puck having fallen into his path after some neat link-up play between forward Ross Murray and Harley. In the last two minutes of the period, Holland zipped a shot towards Hovell who covered and the netminder was given further reprieve when Richards flashed the puck wide of his net, leaving the Lions four goals behind the Warriors as they filed from the ice at the second interval.
Heading into the third period, the Warriors were handed the perfect opportunity to extend their lead when Nottingham’s seventeen-year-old forward Mitchell Garner incurred the first and only penalty of the game for a slashing offence on 42:17. Searching for a goal on the power play, Holland unleashed a shot from the left wing which flew wide of Hovell’s net before Richards dashed down on one knee in an attempt to sweep the puck home. Gritāns fired from distance but again Hovell remained sturdy between the pipes and Harley tried a long range shot which struck Finlinson in the face seconds before Whitley’s power play concluded. Further ice time for Ryder, Douglass and Wetherell proved incredibly beneficial for the visitors as they continued to apply pressure to the Lions’ defence. Countering, Pywell sought a break away but Whitley were resolute having learned from their actions in the latter stages of the first period. This defensive work was quickly matched by the Lions who showed fortitude to keep Campbell at bay prior to breaking down Ryder’s effort to guide Gritāns’ shot towards Hovell’s goal. Though Hovell did his very best to deal with the onslaught, he could not prevent Edgar from chipping the puck to his right on 48:58 to make it 7-2. Thirteen seconds later, Douglass grabbed his first goal of the season for the Warriors with a tap-in and Richards fired past Hovell just fifteen seconds later courtesy of Campbell to add a ninth to Whitley’s tally, prompting a timeout from the Lions who were bewildered to have conceded three goals in twenty eight seconds. This timeout had little effect however as just over a minute later Richards completed his hat-trick by flicking the puck into the roof of Hovell’s net to make it 10-2. Matters were then made worse for Nottingham when a defensive error allowed Campbell to calmly steer the puck around Hovell for 11-2 just under four minutes later. Boyle was soon brought into the action to stop Hopkins’ shot but any hope that this attacking play afforded the Lions diminished when Edgar notched his second of the game on 57:18, his fierce shot evading Hovell’s grasp after he had seemingly pulled off the save. Thirty five seconds later, Gritāns surpassed defenceman Michael Berehowskyj to find Richards who netted his fourth of the evening, completing the Warriors’ 13-2 league victory.
Shots on goal
Ben Richards (4+0), Ben Campbell (2+4), Phil Edgar (2+1), Adam Finlinson (1+3), Rolands Gritāns (1+2), Ross Douglass (1+1), Callum Watson (1+0), Dean Holland (1+0), Craig Johnson (0+2), Ross Murray (0+2), Kyle Ross (0+1), Josh Maddock (0+1), Harry Harley (0+1), Callum Queenan (0+1)
Jack Crowston (1+1), Cameron Pywell (1+1)
Man of the Match
Lions: Thomas Hovell
Warriors: Ben Richards