WHITLEY Warriors were left to reflect on a missed opportunity after drawing with league leaders Billingham Stars just 24 hours after being held to a 3-3 scoreline in Sheffield.
The Stars began brightly against the defending champions and opened the scoring through former Whitley forward Adam Robinson at 9.49, and less than two minutes later the Teesside outfit’s lead had doubled courtesy of a strike from Michael Elder.
However, despite Billingham having the better of the first period, the home side grabbed themselves a lifeline when a sweet move saw Callum Watson play the puck across the goalmouth for Mark Good to score a short-handed goal 66 seconds before the break.
That certainly galvanized the home side and for the remaining 40 minutes, they kept the league leaders on the back foot.
Whitley certainly seemed to catch the referee’s eye more than the visitors over the course of the evening and spent more time short-handed, but that did not stop them from creating the majority of the goalscoring opportunities.
After a goalless middle period, the game followed a similar pattern in the final session and the home side would receive just one powerplay chance.
However, it was not an opportunity they would waste and Dean Holland made it 2-2 from an acute angle at 48.47 to give Whitley a more than deserved equaliser.
From there on in there looked to be only one winner, but the Warriors could not score the goal that would have taken them top of the league.
After the game Warriors captain Rob Wilson was not too disappointed with his side’s efforts over the two nights.
“Last time we went to Sheffield we led going into the last period and ended up getting beat, so knew what to expect this time round,” he said.
“We did take our foot of the gas a little, but this time we were able to keep battling and although I felt we were the better side, we emerged with what was probably a good point from a side that can be very tough to beat in their own rink.”
Things happened a little in reverse against Billingham as the Teesside outfit made the early running, but that short-handed goal proved to be a turning point and Wilson felt there was only one side going to win that game from there on in.
“For the first time this season I was really happy with the way everyone on the side played,” added Wilson.
“All the defencemen brought their top game to the rink, while the back-checking from the forwards was brilliant and some of our forward play in the last two periods caused the Stars all sorts of problems.
“But we still had to find a way past Flav [Billingham netminder James Flavell] and we know what he is capable of after his two seasons at Whitley; and he showed just how good he is.
“However, we deserved our goal, because we were by far the better side in the last 40 minutes, peppering their goal with shots and it looked as if we might get nothing for our efforts.
“In the end though we have scored on the powerplay, which is great considering the number of times we found ourselves short-handed and didn’t concede, so to get just one opportunity in the final period and take it was a huge bonus for us.
“To be honest, even though we have only drawn, it felt like a win and once again we have shown we are as good as Billingham when we all play at our best.”
Although the game ended in a draw, both Billingham and Whitley improved their league position after third placed Blackburn Hawks – the only other side who can still win the league – went down to a 4-3 home defeat against Telford Titans.
The Warriors are next in action on March 17 when they travel to Trafford and then host Sheffield Spartans at Hillheads the following night.
Tickets are available at the door for the game against Sheffield priced at adults £7.50, under 16s and concessions £5.50, while a family ticket is £22.
The action starts at 5pm, with the doors opening 30 minutes before face-off.