Whitley Warriors secure crucial point at Manchester Minotaurs

Adam Reynolds in action against Manchester Minotaurs.
Adam Reynolds in action against Manchester Minotaurs.
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Whitley Warriors travelled to the north west to take on Manchester Minotaurs on Sunday evening and returned with a valuable point.

Warriors were without the services of experienced forwards Jamie Tinsley, Mark Good and young blue liner Callum Read.

They went into the contest knowing a positive result was essential for their play-off aspirations, and the game started well for the side from Tyneside as Ben Richards claimed the opening goal with only three minutes on the clock after being set up precisely by DJ Good and Dan Harris.

As the opening period progressed, Warriors generated a number of offensive opportunities, however, Nicole Jackson in the Manchester goal made a number of smart saves.

Adam Reynolds did find the back of the net for Whitley midway through the opening period but referee Liptrott ruled the effort out as he thought the puck had been kicked into the goal.

Minotaurs were presented with two powerplay opportunities late on in the first period but they were unable to create the right opening for their free scoring import Lukas Zeman as Warriors were able to hold onto their 1-0 advantage after the opening 20 minutes.

Warriors continued to create scoring opportunities at the start of the second period and veteran forward Karl Culley increased their lead on 29 minutes when he lit the lamp after some pleasing build up play from line-mates Richards and DJ Good.

Whitley then ran into some penalty trouble as Rob Wilson and Paul Matthews picked up minor penalties for hooking and interference towards the end of the period.

And Manchester made the most of the indiscipline as they netted three times through Zeman, Lee Pollitt and Brian Worall in under four minutes to lead 3-2 after 40 minutes of hockey.

Warriors came out full of energy for the third period and Culley tied the game up just 29 seconds in when he fired home from close range with Adam Reynolds and Harry Harley picking up assists.

The visitors thought they had found the game winning goal late on when the puck found the back of the net, but the officials chalked the goal off for a player being in the crease, which saw the game end level at 3-3 with both sides claiming a point.

Talented young defenceman Christian Johnson was chosen as Warriors’ man of the match while Michael Gilbert was selected as Manchester’s top performer.

Warriors coach Simon Leach said: “I think we were dominant in the first period and could have been out of sight, however, we then gave a couple of goals up and let them back into the game.

“We battled back and got a point which sees us in a brilliant position to qualify for the play-offs.

“It wasn’t our best performance but we’ve dug deep to get the point.

“Their goalie played really well and made some good saves and she could have been selected as man of the match.”

The draw for Warriors along with a defeat for play-off rivals Sutton Sting means Whitley will qualify for the end of season play-offs up in Dumfries in April providing they beat Moralee Conference basement side Telford Titans next Sunday on home ice at Hillheads.