Whitley Warriors started the New Year with an 11-1 win over Matt Bradbury’s Nottingham Lions at Hillheads on Sunday evening.
Lining up with a roster of twenty skaters, Whitley Warriors afforded increased ice time for defenceman Gary Walker and forwards Niall Ryder, Anthony Wetherell and Ross Douglass further to presenting shot stopper Jordan Boyle with a start between the pipes in place of usual first choice Richie Lawson. Meanwhile, Nottingham made the trip with a squad of eighteen players, including top points scorer Cameron Pywell, stand-in Captain Jamie Hovell and netminder Dean Bowater.
Just twenty six seconds after facing off against Nottingham, Whitley were stunned when the Lions seized a 1-0 lead, forward Hamish Hall dexterously surpassing the Warriors’ defence to find Pywell whose low shot beat Boyle to put the home team on the back foot. Gaining confidence as a result of their early goal, the Lions began to put Whitley to the test, forward Thomas Palmer appearing a particular threat in the Warriors’ defensive zone. In spite of this, Whitley began to battle for an equaliser, sending Ben Campbell down the right wing in search of a teammate to tap the puck home but to no avail. With link-up play between Campbell and forward Phil Edgar proving fruitless in the opening moments, stand-in Captain Shaun Kippin tried his luck but Bowater remained strong to quash the Warrior’s chances. A hooking penalty for Palmer then placed Whitley on the power play but, unable to capitalise, the Hillheads outfit went shorthanded when defenceman Josh Maddock was sinbinned for interference five seconds before the Lions returned to full strength. Building momentum in offence whilst on the penalty kill, the Warriors finally drew level forty eight seconds after Maddock’s return as Campbell buried the puck on 9:55 following a neat pass from Edgar. Beginning to bombard Bowater, Whitley achieved a 2-1 lead when Edgar drove the puck home assisted by forward Niall Ryder on 11:05 and just eighty three seconds later, Campbell fired into the roof of the Lions’ net to give his side a two-goal cushion. Maintaining their efforts, the Warriors ensured Nottingham’s chances were few and far between as defenceman Harry Harley caused problems for his opposition with some long range shots before forward Adam Finlinson looped a shot towards goal. Ryder then tried a wraparound but was edged away from Bowater’s net and an arching shot from forward Ross Murray fell dangerously behind Nottingham’s defence but was quickly dealt with to keep the score line at 3-1 going into the second period.
Picking up where they left off as they took to the ice for the middle stanza, the Warriors continued to apply pressure to Nottingham’s defence as ‘D’ man Harley fired in a shot from the blue line. The puck falling to him again, he attempted to pick out forward Callum Queenan who missed a tap-in and, collecting another pass on the edge of Whitley’s offensive zone, he fired in a third long range effort, only to see the puck skim wide of the net. A holding penalty for versatile Warrior Kyle Ross then left Whitley shorthanded on 27:42 but less than sixty seconds later Edgar grabbed his second of the game after the hard work of Latvian defenceman Rolands Gritāns paid off. Edgar then secured his hat-trick with a tap-in to Bowater’s right to make it 5-1 on 32:09 and eighty seven seconds later, forward Ben Richards hit the target after receiving the puck from Alternate Captain Jordan Barnes. Calling a timeout after this goal, Nottingham returned to the ice and began to increase their attacking play, versatile forward Bailey Challans and seventeen-year-old Cole Arnold seeking a goal whilst forward Harry Hopkins came close to burying the puck on a breakaway. An attempt from Pywell also brought Boyle into the action and soon after, the Lions were handed a power play when Barnes was sidelined for interference on 37:57. Countering on the penalty kill, Ryder threaded a pass to Douglass who could not add to Whitley’s tally, leaving the score line at 6-1 at the end of the second period.
Comfortable in their lead, Whitley continued their onslaught in the third period, Campbell, Edgar and Murray again working the puck in Nottingham’s defensive zone in their effort to add to the scoreboard. Hard work from Kippin, Wetherell and Douglass saw this line come close to netting but it was not long after that Edgar snatched his fourth goal, progressing towards the net with Campbell in support but shooting rather than passing to outfox Nottingham’s defence on 46:07. Very much in control of the game, the Warriors sought to extend their lead further, Gritāns seeing his shot saved by Bowater whilst Richards was also amongst those proving problematic in front of goal. Just past the midpoint of the period, Campbell claimed his hat-trick to make it 8-1, hitting the target courtesy of Murray on 51:47. Sixty two seconds later, Richards reaped the rewards of his diligence when he punished the Lions on the power play, defenceman Tyler Poole having been sidelined for a holding sticks offence. Trailing 9-1, Nottingham allowed eighteen-year-old netminder Luca Sheldon some ice time in place of Bowater but he was made to pick the puck from his net less than two minutes after taking to the ice when Gritāns fired home on 54:32. Fifty eight seconds later, forward Callum Watson found Finlinson who executed superbly to make it 11-1, completing Whitley’s landslide victory which leaves the Hillheads outfit just one point adrift of top spot with two games in hand.
Shots on goal
Phil Edgar (4+1), Ben Campbell (3+0), Ben Richards (2+0), Adam Finlinson (1+2), Rolands Gritāns (1+1), Craig Johnson (0+2), Callum Watson (0+2), Callum Queenan (0+2), Ross Murray (0+2), Kyle Ross (0+1), Jordan Barnes (0+1), Josh Maddock (0+1), Niall Ryder (0+1), Harry Harley (0+1)
Cameron Pywell (1+0), Hamish Hall (0+1)
Man of the Match
Warriors: Ross Murray
Lions: Thomas Palmer