by Chris Mackenzie
Whitley Warriors’ last league game of the season saw David Longstaff and his side travel to Teesside for a local derby against the Billingham Stars on Sunday evening.
Warriors were without Andre Payette and Shaun Kippin who were both suspended following last weekend’s game against Solway Sharks.
Going into the game Warriors knew they needed to win to keep their slim play-off hopes alive and hope other results went their way.
Warriors started the game on fire and just 32 seconds in Ben Richards slotted home after being set up neatly by 16-year-old Jamie Ord.
Whitley were intent on pressurising Stars’ defence and with just over a minute played grabbed a second goal when DJ Good found the back of the net to the delight of the large contingent of travelling fans who had made the trip down the A19.
Callum Watson extended the lead on seven minutes with an exquisite finish that left Billingham’s star netminder James Flavell a little baffled.
Dean Holland almost made it 4-0 shortly afterwards, however, Flavell was able to keep the effort from the Whitley skipper out of his net.
Stars got a goal back on ten minutes when Michael Bowman netted and Billingham could have made the scoreline closer minutes later when Callum Davies fired wide when well placed.
Warriors had to kill a Stars powerplay early on in the second period after Jordan Barnes had been penalised for boarding.
Whitley were making full use of their roster running three forward lines and three defensive pairings with several youngsters seeing significant ice time, and it was one of the teenagers who grabbed the game’s next goal when Ord netted his first in senior hockey with a sublime finish past Mark Watson in the home goal.
Stars had opted to replace their starting netminder Flavell who had looked a little rattled at the first interval.
At this point many Warriors fans were buoyed by the news that Blackburn were losing, which meant that Whitley’s victory could still mean a spot in the play-offs.
Billingham came back into the contest during the middle session as Ben Davison grabbed a goal at around the 30-minute mark before Dennis Bostrum managed to get away from the Warriors defence and finish with aplomb to get Billingham within one.
Whitley were given a late powerplay opportunity in the second period when referee Farren belatedly gave Michael Bowman two minutes for a high sticking offence.
Warriors made the most of their man advantage as Callum Watson netted his second of the game with a powerplay marker.
The final period saw Warriors grab a further goal when Dean Holland got on the scoresheet .
Whitley goaltender Richie Lawson made several fine saves to ensure the score remained 6-3 to Warriors.
Unfortunately Blackburn were able to skate to a victory against Solihull which saw the Hawks qualify for the end of season play-offs, which will be held in Sheffield in early April.
Warriors’ man of the match award went to DJ Good for a hard working display while Stars’ best performer on the night was adjudged to be the versatile Davison, who operated in defence.