Warriors claim dramatic draw against Blackburn in the dying seconds

Whitley Warriors celebrate their late equaliser. Picture by Colin Edwards
Whitley Warriors celebrate their late equaliser. Picture by Colin Edwards

Whitley Warriors secured a dramatic point against Blackburn Hawks last weekend in a NIHL North Moralee Conference match up on home ice.

Warriors went into the game with a strong roster as the only player missing from their line-up was defenceman Daniel Harris who was unavailable.

Both goaltenders were kept busy in the opening minutes of the contest as the two sides created a number of early opportunities.

Warriors ‘D’ man Rob Wilson was penalised for hooking midway through the first period and Hawks netted the opening goal of the game on the powerplay when prolific forward Adam Brittle found the back of the net.

Whitley went on a powerplay of their own after 27 minutes when Hawks’ Craig Rodgers picked up a two-minute penalty for cross checking.

Warriors’ special team quickly clicked into gear and Adam Reynolds tied the scores up just ten seconds after they were given their own man advantage.

But Blackburn were still creating plenty of openings and they regained the lead just before the end of the period when Brittle notched his second goal of the contest with another powerplay marker, which was set up nicely by Danny Mackriel and Jon Adams.

Warriors began the final period 2-1 down and an altercation between Jordan Barnes and Blackburn’s Jake Nurse occurred just as the third period was getting under way. Both were given four minutes in roughing penalties for their coming together in the middle of the ice.

Whitley re-jigged their lines a little in the latter stages as coach Simon Leach tried to find the right offensive combination.

However it was Blackburn who grabbed the game’s next goal when import forward Adams fired past Richie Lawson in the Whitley net with under six minutes remaining.

Leach then made the brave decision to pull his netminder to allow Warriors an extra forward out on the ice and this decision immediately paid off when a shot from Harry Harley on the blue line was tipped in by Jamie Tinsley, which saw Whitley only one goal behind their opponents.

Harley remained in the thick of the action as the young forward was then given a penalty for roughing shortly afterwards.

Blackburn’s subsequent powerplay saw Matt Viney light the lamp to increase the visitor’s advantage to 4-2.

Warriors then opted to pull their netminder again and continue to throw men forward to find a way back into the game, and with just 35 seconds left, Adam Reynolds found the back of the net after being fed the puck by captain DJ Good.

Seconds later Brittle let his frustration get the better of him and he was given 12 minutes in penalties for checking to the head.

Warriors’ Rob Wilson did not take kindly to Brittle’s actions and he too was given 12 minutes in the sin bin for his coming together with Brittle, which saw both players sit out the remainder of the game.

Whitley were still creating chances though and they found the game tieing goal with only 11 seconds left on the clock when Reynolds netted his third goal of the game from close range after Warriors had worked the puck well around the Blackburn defensive zone.

The large passionate crowd inside Hillheads erupted when Warriors clinched a point against the in-form Hawks who had led by two goals with only around half a minute left in the game.

Whitley coach Leach said: “I think it was quite an even game, we did a lot of things right and five on five I thought it was evenly matched game.

“We had some good chances as did they and on another day we might have won, but on the balance of the overall game a draw was probably the fair result.

“Everyone played really well, we played with four lines at the start and then changed things around and moved guys in and out, and it’s good to be giving everyone ice time.

“I can’t fault any of the guys as we are sticking together as a team as we battle to make the end of season play-offs.”

Warriors’ next game sees the Manchester Minotaurs visit North Tyneside Sunday evening with a face-off time of 5pm.

Whitley currently occupy the last play-off spot in the Moralee Conference so the club needs to continue picking up positive results between now and the end of the regular season if they are to finish in the top four and ensure qualification for the post season.