Warriors consolidate play-off spot after draw with Billingham

Whitley Warriors' Callum Watson. Picture by Colin Lawson - IceHockeyMedia
Whitley Warriors' Callum Watson. Picture by Colin Lawson - IceHockeyMedia
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Whitley Warriors had a busy weekend as they took on the Solway Sharks on the road on Saturday before hosting local rivals Billingham Stars on Sunday at Hillheads.

Warriors were 2-0 down after 24 minutes at Solway before goals from Joe Stamp and Callum Watson levelled before the end of the second period.

Sharks took the points on offer though as Juraj Senko and Duncan Speirs both grabbed goals in the third period to seal a victory for the home side.

Going into the Tyne-Tees derby, Warriors were boosted by Andre Payette eligibility to play after missing out on the Solway game due to suspension. However, they were without youngster Ben Richards who picked up a shoulder injury against Sharks.

The game started at a fast pace as Warriors surged forward from the opening face-off, but Stars import forward Bostrum quickly counter attacked and he grabbed the lead just 26 seconds in the with a well taken goal.

Warriors continued to create openings with Harry Harley going close when Whitley were on a powerplay.

They drew level ten minutes in when the in-form Callum Watson stabbed the puck home after a precise pass from linemateShaun Kippin.

But Stars retook the lead late in the first when young blue liner Tom Keeley fired home a powerplay marker.

Whitley roared back and they led 3-2 at the 29-minute mark thanks to well taken goals from both skipper Jamie Tinsley and the lively Watson.

Stars were then presented with a powerplay opportunity when Joe Stamp was sent to the sin bin for hooking, and Billingham’s special team did their job when a deflected Keeley shot somehow found its way into the back of Warriors goal.

Just minutes later Warriors’ Scott Cooper restored the home side’s lead when he grabbed his first goal of the season with Whitley number 18 Martin Crammond picking up the assist.

Stars were level after two periods, though, as an Andy Finn shot from distance got the better of Richie Lawson with under a minute left to play in the period.

Warriors continued to create openings in the final session and DJ Good almost grabbed a game winning goal late but James Flavell in the Billingham goal was just able to prevent the puck from crossing the line.

With seconds left in the contest Warriors’ player-coach David Longstaff called a time out to outline his side’s tactical approach, however, they were unable to find a winner and the sides shared the points.

Watson was chosen as Whitley’s man of the match while Stars netminder Flavell was selected as the visitors’ top performer.

Warriors are second in NIHL North Division 1 after the opening two months of the campaign.

After the Bullingham game, Whitley assistant coach Dave Holland said: “A pleasing result and I thought we dominated that game at times.

“We opted not to play Dean [Holland] tonight as he isn’t quite fit yet and Dan Pye had to leave the game as he is still carrying a knock.

“I must mention Kyle Ross as he did really well out there. He gives all he has for the team, he turns up to everything, works his hardest and you can see that in his performance out on the ice each week.

“Young Liam Smedley also did well. He took some shifts up front when we needed him to and he also played some time on d.

“I think we had performed well all weekend against two quality teams, we’ve got great depth in our squad now and that’ll be of great help to us going forward.”

Warriors are in action on the road next weekend when they travel to Sheffield to take on the Senators on Saturday with a 3.45pm face-off).

The next home game is the following weekend when Sheffield Spartans visit Tyneside on Sunday, November 8, face-off 5pm, for a crucial league match up between two sides currently occupying play-off places.