Whitley Warriors ended their weekend of NIHL North 1 league action with a 9-3 home victory over Nottingham Lions on Sunday evening following a 3-2 road defeat to Solway Sharks on Saturday.
Though making the trip to Dumfries with a slightly depleted line-up of sixteen skaters through the absences of Alternate Captain Jordan Barnes, forwards Niall Ryder, Ross Douglass and Anthony Wetherell, left winger Rob Farmer and youngster Connor Lewis, the Warriors welcomed the return of Captain Dean Holland and Latvian Rolands Gritāns. By comparison, Solway boasted a line-up of twenty players which included Captain Struan Tonnar, former Warrior Ross Murray and netminder Jordan McLaughlin.
No sooner was the first period underway than the puck made it past starting shot stopper Dean Bowater as long-serving Shark Iain Bowie grabbed an early lead for his side just sixteen seconds into the contest following build-up play from forward Scott Henderson. Stunned, the Warriors took their time to grow into the game and were disappointed further when a power play resulting from forward Gordon Horne’s boarding penalty on 7:37 was cancelled out by an interference penalty for Gritāns just over a minute later. As such, it was only after the halfway point in the period that Whitley levelled the scoring, versatile Warrior Kyle Ross the man on target assisted by defenceman Craig Johnson on 12:56. Buoyed by their foothold in the game, Whitley looked for opportunities to put the home team under pressure and their patience paid off in the final two minutes of the period when forward Adam Finlinson beat McLaughlin after receiving the puck from Bowater to give his side a narrow 2-1 lead on 18:32. Though pleased with this turn of events, the Warriors saw out the period with one skater less as defenceman Steven Chalmers was sidelined for unsportsmanlike conduct twenty seven seconds later to leave Whitley shorthanded at the start of the second stanza.
After successfully killing this penalty in the first minute of the middle period, young forward Thomas Fraser was sinbinned for hooking on 24:00 to reduce Whitley to four skaters once again. Though Solway were unable to make the most of their power play, the Sharks were handed another opportunity to equalise thirty six seconds after Fraser’s return when Gritāns took a seat for kneeing. Consequently, the home team netted just one second after Whitley’s penalty terminated as forward Callum Boyd printed his name onto the scoresheet courtesy of Alternate Captain Murray and forward Rick Bentham on 28:37. Further penalty trouble followed for the Warriors at the midpoint of the game; Johnson picked up a tripping penalty on 29:13 only for forward Shaun Kippin to incur an interference penalty thirty five seconds after the side returned to full strength. Just as this penalty concluded, Solway’s forward Scott Crane was punished for interference but, eight seconds before the Shark returned to the ice, Warrior Gritāns was called to the penalty box for tripping to see Whitley go shorthanded again, the side only restored to five men twenty seconds before the interval.
Returning for the third period, the Warriors sought to recover their lead but it was Solway who were next to find the net, forward Kieran Hair surpassing Whitley’s defence with assistance from Crane and Alternate Captain Stuart Kerr on 43:08. Just over two minutes later, the Warriors went shorthanded when blue liner Harry Harley was sidelined for crosschecking but the visitors killed this penalty and returned to full strength unscathed. Soon after, it was the turn of Shark Ben Coughtrie to sit out, the defenceman receiving 2+2 for crosschecking on 48:44. However, less than two minutes later, Ross picked up a two-minute penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct to offer the home team some reprieve. Moments later, the Sharks were penalised again, this time for delaying the game, to see Whitley gain another power play and, though unable to make the most of their additional skater, the Warriors were handed the advantage just thirteen seconds later following a high sticks offence from Boyd on 55:27. Working hard on the penalty kill, the Sharks prevented Whitley from making an impact in front of McLaughlin’s net and the playing field was soon levelled when Chalmers was made to serve two minutes for holding on 56:46. Before this penalty was over, forward Callum Watson joined his teammate to see the Sharks operate on the power play for the remainder of the game but the Warriors worked hard to quash the home team’s efforts on Bowater’s net, leaving the score line at 3-2 as the game came to a close.
Shots on goal
Iain Bowie (1+0), Callum Boyd (1+0), Kieran Hair (1+0), Scott Henderson (0+1), Ross Murray (0+1), Rick Bentham (0+1), Stuart Kerr (0+1), Scott Crane (0+1)
Kyle Ross (1+0), Adam Finlinson (1+0),Craig Johnson (0+1), Dean Bowater (0+1)
Man of the Match
Sharks: Liam Stenton
Warriors: Dean Bowater
Hoping to recover from this narrow defeat, Whitley Warriors played host to Matt Bradbury’s Nottingham Lions on Sunday evening and had at their disposal a stronger line-up of nineteen skaters, the side missing forwards Anthony Wetherell and Ross Douglass whilst injured left winger Rob Farmer decided to sit this game out to aid his recovery after taking part in the warm-up. Meanwhile, Nottingham made the trip with sixteen skaters, including Swiss import Zachary Yokoyama, Captain Thomas Dermott and eighteen-year-old Louie Newell whilst netminder Luca Sheldon started between the pipes with Matthew Bloor as backup.
The first period began with some frantic end-to-end play as both teams showed that they were more than up for the challenge. It was not long before Whitley began to pile on the pressure and Sheldon was called upon to make some impressive saves, Captain Dean Holland amongst those putting the nineteen-year-old netminder to the test with a low shot from close range. An interference penalty for versatile defenceman Kyle Ross on 7:01 then placed Whitley on the penalty kill but just eighty seconds after the Warriors returned to full strength, forward Adam Finlinson opened the scoring, plucking the puck from the air to tap home after neat play from defenceman Dylan Hehir and Holland on 10:21. More chances for Holland followed, the captain snapping through the Lions’ defence in an effort to carve out some opportunities for his teammates. A blue line shot from ‘D’ man Harry Harley was kept out of the net by Sheldon and Ross continued to cause problems in front of goal, seeking a tap-in without success. Meanwhile, Nottingham opted to counter, defenceman Tyler Poole, forward James Shaw and Yokoyama amongst those trying to level the scoring but an equaliser was only delivered in the final minute of the period when eighteen-year-old Newell fired past netminder Mark Turnbull to make it 1-1 on 19:22. Realising the need to get his team back on track, Finlinson skated into Nottingham’s defensive zone only to receive a check to the head from forward Matt Brown which drew blood and left the forward with a broken nose which saw him unable to return to play. In consequence, Brown was dealt a match penalty which placed Whitley on a five-minute power play and the first period was brought to an early close so that the ice could be cleaned.
With the last thirty eight seconds of the opening stanza leaving the score line unchanged at 1-1 after the first interval, Turnbull and Sheldon switched places and the second period got underway. With possession very much in their control on the power play, the Warriors peppered Sheldon with shots and their advantage was enhanced when Nottingham’s Alternate Captain Alexander Cleves was sidelined for a boarding offence on 22:23. This presented the home team with the perfect opportunity to capitalise, Latvian defenceman Rolands Gritāns feigning to shoot before moving into the centre of Nottingham’s defensive zone to hit the target on 22:44, Holland in on the action alongside Canadian Phil Edgar on this occasion. Alternate Captain Jordan Barnes then went it alone to add a third to his team’s tally, picking up his misplaced pass to Niall Ryder to net on the backhand just over two minutes later, making it 3-1 on 24:50. The Lions soon struck again however, this time eighteen-year-old forward Kieran Gibbs slipping the puck past Turnbull from close range, the youngster assisted by Shaw and defenceman Jordan Wright on 26:11. Undeterred, Whitley continued to build on their positive play and Edgar netted just two seconds before the midpoint of the game, Holland passing the puck to Gritāns behind him in the build up to help their teammate onto the scoresheet. A holding penalty for Yokoyama on 30:22 was swiftly followed by a slashing offence from forward Callum Watson forty seven seconds later to see both teams reduced to four men. Just one second after Watson’s return to the ice, the Lions managed to unpick Whitley’s defence, Yokoyama finding time and space to rocket the puck past Turnbull on 33:10 to pull the score line back to 4-3. Quick to respond, Holland grabbed a goal of his own twenty nine seconds later to restore his team’s two-goal cushion after linking up with Gritāns to beat Sheldon glove side. Edgar then achieved his brace with some skilled play after receiving the puck from Holland to make it 6-3, Harley also assisting on 36:35. Thirty two seconds later, Watson swept the puck past Sheldon, Harley and Hehir assisting, to prompt a timeout from the visitors but this did not prevent Whitley from heading in with a four-goal lead at the second break.
After replacing Turnbull with shot stopper Josh Crane for the final twenty minutes of the game, Whitley began to show more intensity in the third period which paid off as Holland set up forward Callum Queenan who edged towards Sheldon’s right before burying the puck on 43:17. Watson then followed suit to achieve his brace with a low shot on 44:32 to make it 9-3, Edgar and defenceman Craig Johnson with the assists. Sixty seconds later, Gritāns was shown to the sin bin for a crosschecking offence and, whilst Whitley killed this penalty, the side went shorthanded again when Ryder was made to sit out for hooking. Just after this penalty was served, the Lions allowed Bloor some ice time between the pipes in place of Sheldon. The Warriors continued to apply pressure to Nottingham’s net but Bloor pulled off some strong saves to keep Whitley out and an interference penalty for Ryder then saw the Hillheads outfit placed on the penalty kill, the side also losing youngster Connor Lewis towards the end of the period after the Warrior sustained a broken collarbone. Though testing Crane, the Lions were unable to find the net and play soon returned to Whitley’s offensive zone where Yokoyama and Ross battled for the puck along the boards as the final buzzer sounded to call time on the Warriors’ 9-3 victory which sees the outfit remain in second place in the league standings and tied on 6 points with Solway Sharks who currently have a game in hand on David Longstaff’s team.
Shots on goal
Callum Watson (2+0), Phil Edgar (2+2), Dean Holland (1+5), Rolands Gritāns (1+2), Jordan Barnes (1+0), Adam Finlinson (1+0), Callum Queenan (1+0), Dylan Hehir (0+2), Harry Harley (0+2), Craig Johnson (0+1)
Louie Newell (1+1), Kieran Gibbs (1+1), Zachary Yokoyama (1+0), Jacob Race (0+1), Jordan Right (0+1), James Shaw (0+1), Alexander Cleves (0+1)
Man of the Match
Warriors: Adam Wood
Lions: Luca Sheldon