Whitley Warriors hit Blackburn Hawks for six at Hillheads

Whitley Warriors' Callum Watson. Picture by Colin Lawson - IceHockeyMedia
Whitley Warriors' Callum Watson. Picture by Colin Lawson - IceHockeyMedia

Whitley Warriors hosted the Blackburn Hawks in game that counted towards both the league and cup at their Hillheads base on Sunday evening.

They had got the better of Hawks the previous weekend 3-2, and David Longstaff and his side were looking to pick up another victory against the reigning NIHL North Division 1 champions.

They were able to ice at almost full strength while Hawks also had a strong roster of players to choose from, though the visitors’ recent signing Rick Bentham was missing from their line up.

The home side operated with three forward lines and three defensive units for the majority of the contest with the forward units altered as the game went on to keep players fresh and ready for action.

Warriors flew out of the blocks and took the lead with just 51 seconds on the clock when Callum Watson fired past Stuart.

They created plenty of chances and Harry Harley made it 2-0 on seven minutes when he found the top corner of the net from just inside the blue line.

Just a minute later Watson struck again to the delight of the large home crowd.

As the period progressed Whitley went close to extending their lead as Shaun Kippin had a goal wiped out by the officials while Watson almost grabbed his third of the opening period after some superb interplay between himself and DJ Good.

Both sides created chances in the second period and Chris Butler almost got Hawks on the scoresheet on 32 minutes when he forced a smart save from Warriors netminder Richie Lawson.

Seconds later Whitley notched their fourth when Dean Holland smartly slotted home from close range with Liam Brown and DJ Good providing the assists.

Watson grabbed his third of the game and fifth of the season on 36 minutes when the speedy winger once again lit the lamp after being fed the puck by import Andre Payette.

Hawks almost got a goal back late in the second stanza when the hard-working Aaron Davies tested Lawson with a solid effort on goal.

Blackburn opted to change their netminder ahead of the final period with Niks Trapans replacing Stuart Ashton as their last line of defence.

Trapans was soon called into action as the youngster made a smart save from Dean Holland after a precise DJ Good pass had cut the Blackburn defence apart.

Midway through the period tempers frayed as a scuffle broke out near the penalty box before Warriors’ Payette and Hawks’ Steve Duncombe exchanged blows on the opposite side of the rink.

After a lengthy stoppage the game got back under way and Warriors were able to kill off an extended Blackburn powerplay.

With only five seconds left, Warriors youngster Lawson Glasby found the back of the net with a powerful shot from distance that got the better of the impressive Trappans, Glasby was clearly delighted to notch his first ever senior goal for Warriors as the youngster’s exuberant celebrations illustrated.

Warriors gave all of their roster significant ice time during the match as Anthony Weatherall, Ross Douglass, Glasby, Niall Simpson and Liam Brown all got several shifts during the contest.

Weatherall looked particularly impressive on his senior debut.

Watson was named Warriors’ man of the match while Callum Price was chosen as the visitors best player on the night.

Warriors goaltender Lawson had a superb game as he recorded a shut out and saved every one of the shots that came his way.

Warriors skipper Dean Holland said: “We worked hard on things in practice during the week and it worked well, we scored a few good goals and the youngsters all got shifts and did well.

“Lobby [Longstaff] was very impressed with the youngsters and they all showed they could play at this level.

“Weatherall has looked pretty good in practice with us this week and he did well out on the ice, he’s only 16 and has been playing with the under 18s and under 20s this season up to now.

“Ross [Douglas] also did well and he’s an up and coming young player as well who will do well for us over the course of the season.

“Blackburn are a good team and it’s great to get a victory over them. They have a big budget and pay players to come and play for them, so it’s nice to beat them and it’s also a confidence boost to ourselves.

“Having a strong line-up like we did tonight is always good and the result proves when we can put a strong line-up out on the ice we can compete with anyone we come up against.

“Richie [Lawson] has been doing well for us in goal and when he’s in top form he can win games for us on his own at times.”

Warriors have two games at the weekend as they travel to the Scottish borders to face Solway Sharks on Saturday evening before they take on Blackburn again on Sunday in a NIHL North League match up on home ice at Hillheads at the usual 5pm face-off time.

Warriors will be hoping to extend their recent good run of form that has seen David Longstaff’s team win their last three games in all competitions.