WHITLEY Warriors were in action twice last weekend as they travelled north of the border to take on league leaders Solway Sharks on Saturday evening before entertaining their local rivals the Billingham Stars at Hillheads the following night.
Whitley were without youngster Harry Harley for both games as the talented teenage forward had the opportunity to ice in the English Premier League with the Peterborough Phantoms.
Going into the Solway game, Warriors were given a boost as senior netminder Richie Lawson was able to travel north to face the Solway Sharks after he had been out of action for around six weeks with a hand injury.
Whitley matched Sharks for large parts of the first period, however, Solway netted the only goal of the session to hold a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes of play.
Sharks’ offensive play was clinical in the middle session as they fired home a further four goals to lead 5-0 by the end of the second period.
Warriors opted to introduce teenage goaltender Joe Harley for the last ten minutes as Sharks already held an unassailable 6-0 advantage.
Solway did beat the youngster late on, however, when Warriors were also able to get on the scoresheet when captain DJ Good netted after some nice work from his brother Mark, which saw the game end 7-1 in favour of the Sharks.
Liam McAllister was chosen in nets ahead of Richie Lawson on Sunday evening and he made a number of fine saves early on to stop the Teessiders from taking the lead.
It was Warriors who broke the deadlock after 15 minutes when assistant captain Jamie Tinsley fired past Richard Griffiths in the Stars net.
Warriors continued to match Billingham during the opening exchanges in the second period as Stars just could not get their potent offensive game going while Whitley played some nice attractive hockey with both DJ Good and Callum Watson threatening the visitors rearguard.
However, the game dramatically changed in a five-minute spell towards the end of the second period when Billingham netted four goals in a crazy four-minute spell.
Michael Bowman netted Stars’ first of the night on 34 minutes on the powerplay, Michael Elder quickly added a second before a mis-judgement from Whitley keeper Liam McAlister gifted Anthony Price Stars’ third of the evening.
James Moss made it 4-1 on 38 minutes when his shot skidded over the line after coming back off the post.
Whitley tried to change things around a little going into the final session of play.
Coach Dave Holland re-jigged his lines and Lawson replaced McAllister in goal.
Warriors continued to plug away but they were unable to get the better of visiting keeper Griffiths.
Billingham got their fifth goal of the evening on a five on three powerplay opportunity on 54 minutes when blue liner Ross Hanlon found the top corner of the net from distance to seal a 5-1 victory.
Warriors coach Dave Holland said: “We had a really good start, we played with intensity and passion and everyone did what we wanted them to do.
“The four Billingham goals in the space of five minutes put a downer on the team, though.
“Billingham play four good lines and it’s hard to come up against that.
“We are doing everything right at the minute apart from just putting the puck in the back of the net.
“We’ve got a tough run of fixtures at the moment, when you’re coming up against the top teams it’s always going to be hard.”
Next weekend Warriors are only in action the once when they take on the Blackburn Hawks on home ice on Sunday evening, 5pm face-off.
Fans are reminded to get along to the Christmas party in the sponsors’ lounge after the game, when all of the players and coaching staff will also be attending.