Warriors retain play-off title after tough two-leg win over Coventry

WHITLEY Warriors have claimed their second trophy of the season, but were made to work hard for it.

Facing a determined Coventry Blaze side, the Warriors came out on top to become English National Ice Hockey League North play-off champions for the second successive year.

And they can add the trophy to the ENL North League championship, which they also won for a second consecutive season.

The two-legged final played over the weekend saw the first leg at Coventry’s Skydome Arena on Saturday.

Callum Watson scored the first of his two goals of the night to put Warriors ahead in the fifth minute, doubling the lead after 26 minutes.

The Warriors, under pressure for most of the middle period, conceded a goal late on, but Nathan Ryder was on target early in the final session to restore a two-goal cushion.

Coventry kept plugging away and gained a late consolation goal.

The second leg at Hillheads was another close affair.

Less than two minutes in, Watson scored after being unmarked at the far post following good work by DJ Good and Shaun Kippin.

Karl Culley scored his 26th goal of the season for 2-0.

Not prepared to admit defeat, Coventry hit back and were level at 2-2 in less than a minute.

A 13th goal of the season from Paul Windridge from close range restored Warriors’ lead on the night.

But three minutes into the second period Blaze’s never-say-die attitude brought them a third.

It was nip and tuck, and a fast break out of defence brought Warriors’ leading scorer Adam Reynolds his 40th goal of the season after 33 minutes to make it 4-3.

Coventry then scored with nine minutes to go to set up a pulsating end.

Coach Simon Leach was delighted with his side’s overall performance.

“On Sunday in the first period we did not take all of our chances and the second period we sat back a little,” he said.

“The ‘shots on’ goal tally showed that, and we came away with the right result – a one-goal advantage, for the second leg.”

Leach added: “Coventry played their part in a great weekend with their commitment, a credit to ENL.

“We knew it was going to be close over the two legs. Our first-leg victory gave us the edge for the second leg.

“We were always in front, but Coventry always looked dangerous. We got tired towards the end – we only had four defencemen.

“But I’ve said to them the reason why we are successful is because we stick together.

“We wanted to make sure we won the double again – we came through it after being a little lackadaisical at 2-0.”