Warriors secure division one status with two-leg play-off success

Scott Cooper, left, and Josh Maddock stopping an attack by a Widnes player who has lost a glove. Picture by Colin Edwards
Scott Cooper, left, and Josh Maddock stopping an attack by a Widnes player who has lost a glove. Picture by Colin Edwards

Whitley Warriors overcame Widnes Wild in the promotion/relegation play-off games at the weekend.

The away leg was in Widnes on Saturday evening before the sides met again in Whitley Bay on Sunday night.Warriors were only missing two senior players from their roster as Richie Lawson was out due to injury while Rob Wilson was unavailable.

Warriors had never played in Widnes before and just 80 seconds into the Saturday’s game Dan Harris was penalised on a delaying the game penalty.

But their short-handed unit came up with the game’s first goal when Adam Reynolds sweetly fired home after three minutes.

As the first period progressed both sides created chances, but it was the visitors whose finishing was clinical and Whitley led 4-0 after the opening stanza, which saw skipper Jamie Tinsley claim a hat-trick in only seven minutes.

Warriors continued to press the Wild defence in the opening stages of the second period and they were able to grab another two goals through a further strike by Tinsley and a nicely worked goal from Harry Harley.

Widnes opted to change their netminder at this point with Greg Ruxton replacing former Manchester Minotaurs goaltender Nicole Jackson.

Wild got on the scoresheet moments later when Bobby Caunce fired home to the delight of the noisy home fans.

Warriors were still looking dangerous, though, and Adam Reynolds grabbed their seventh of the game when he lit the lamp after 24 minutes with Dean Holland and Liam Smedley picking up assists.

Widnes did not let their heads drop though and got their second goal around 90 seconds later when Shaun Dipnall got the better of Mark Turnbull in the Warriors goal.

Whitley held an 8-2 lead after 40 minutes as Martin Crammond grabbed a marker late on in the middle period.

Warriors were presented with their first powerplay opportunity of the game midway through the final session and they made their man advantage count when Ben Richards grabbed a close range marker after being set up precisely by Dean Holland and Alex Lawson.

The game’s final goal came with less than three minutes remaining when a deflected effort from Bez Hughes saw Wild claim their third goal of an entertaining contest which ended 9-3 in Warriors’ favour.

Warriors man of the match went to Tinsley for his four-goal haul with back up netminder Greg Buxton being adjudged the home side’s best player given he saved 39 out of the 42 shots that he faced once he took to the ice.

On Sunday evening Whitley started the second leg positively and took the lead after 79 seconds when Reynolds found Dean Holland in space at the back post and the No.14 made no mistake with the finish.

Wild created openings of their own and the visitors drew level after seven minutes when Daniel Bullock got the better of Whitley netminder Mark Turnbull.

Warriors then ran into penalty trouble and Widnes made the most of their man advantage as import forward Filip Supa was able to net a powerplay marker to give the visitors a 2-1 lead.

Whitley went on to tally 21 shots in the opening period and their creativity paid off when Callum Queenan fired home just as the buzzer sounded for the end of the action.

The second period saw Warriors continue to generate a lot of chances and they took the lead on 26 minutes when Harley found the back of the net with a nicely struck shot.

Further goals from Dan Pye, Tinsley and DJ Good saw Warriors lead 6-2 after 40 minutes.

Warriors opted to give some of their younger players some ice time in the third period with the likes of Kyle Ross and Connor Shanks getting regular game time.

Whitley were still able to control the game and extend their lead further with three quick-fire goals when Lawson, Ross and Callum Watson all found the back of the net in a frantic spell of play.

Widnes opted to replace their overworked starting goalie Greg Ruxton at this point with Nicole Jackson, however, the change did to stop the Warriors offence and the home side grabbed a further two goals through Dean Holland and Reynolds to claim an 11-2 victory on the night and a 20-5 aggregate success in the promotion/relegation play-off match-up.

Warriors’ Crammond picked up the man of the match for Whitley while Ruxton was chosen as Wild’s best player for his heroics in goal for the division two side.

After the second leg, Warriors coach Simon Leach, who is stepping down from his current role, said: “Coming back with a good result from Saturday’s game at Widnes helped us tonight, however, at times in the first period I didn’t think we played at the intensity we should play at.

“After the first period we got ourselves in gear and created a number of good chances.

“Widnes worked hard and battled, but we were able to get the job done and secure the club’s future in NIHL North Division 1.

“It’s been a difficult season at times, however, our main focus was to maintain our league status and we have been able to do that.

“Looking forward I want to try and make a difference behind the scenes, and if things are right for me and right for the club, everyone is going to benefit.”

The club’s end of season presentation night will take place at the Seahorse on Saturday, April 18, at 7.30pm.

Warriors players and coaching staff will be in attendance for the event, where the club’s player of the year will be announced while fans who have sponsored shirts this season will also be presented with their shirt by their chosen player.

It is hoped as many supporters as possible attend the event as Warriors look to end their 2014-15 season on a positive note.