Whitley Warriors took a strong squad of players across the Pennines to face the Blackburn Hawks on Sunday evening to open their league season.
The only players missing were veteran blue liner Rob Wilson, industrious forward Martin Crammond and young winger Ben Richards.
Warriors started the game on the front foot and netted the opening goal just 63 seconds in when Dean Holland fired home after being set up by line-mate Harry Harley.
Shortly afterwards Whitley’s Alex Lawson was given a minor two-minute penalty for slashing, which saw Blackburn go on an early powerplay and Hawks skipper Chris Arnone fire home to tie the game up while his side had the numerical advantage.
Towards the end of the opening period Hawks ran into penalty trouble as player-coach Jared Owen was given a ten-minute misconduct penalty and Adam Brittle was sent into the penalty box for elbowing.
Blackburn started the second period positively and took the lead on 29 minutes when Luke Brittle fired home.
Just 22 seconds later Hawks increased their advantage further when Luke’s brother Adam found the back of the net after some superb stick handling.
Both sides continued to create openings during the middle session of play, however, Warriors netminder Mark Turnbull and Hawks goalie Daniel Brittle were able to turn away all shots that came their way, which saw Hawks hold a 3-1 lead after 40 minutes of end to end action.
Hawks extended their lead further with two strikes in a 12-second spell from Matt Viney and Jared Owen early in the third period.
Warriors continued to battle away pulled a goal back after 50 minutes of play when Harley fired home from close range after a wrap around effort from captain Jamie Tinsley had brought a smart stop from Blackburn goaltender Daniel Brittle.
The home side grabbed their sixth goal two minutes later when Luke Brittle scored his second strike of the game.
However, Whitley were still going forward with purpose and summer signing Dan Pye slotted home after being set up neatly by Alex Lawson.
Seeing a way back into the match Whitley, coach Simon Leach called a timeout to outline his side’s tactics and opted to pull netminder Mark Turnbull so his side could have the extra skater.
Warriors created plenty of offensive opportunities with the extra man out on the ice, however, Hawks were able to break clear and Adam Brittle fired into an empty net to make the game safe for the home side.
With under 90 seconds remaining in the game Hawks were awarded a penalty shot and Luke Brittle was able to light the lamp with a precise finish after referee Boynton had penalised Josh Maddock on a delaying the game call.
Whitley netminder Turnbull was chosen as Warriors’ man of the match with Blackburn’s Luke Brittle being selected as Hawks’ top performer.
Warriors assistant coach Dave Holland said: “A very disappointing result, we had a good start but then we had a poor second period which they were able to capitalise on.
“Mark Turnbull did a good job for us in goal today, he came up against a penalty shot which is good experience for him.
“The young lads who got ice time all did well too, and it’s all good experience for their overall game.”
Warriors’ next game is a home match against the Sutton Sting in NIHL North on Sunday, September 28, at Hillheads ice rink in Whitley Bay.