Whitley Warriors slay Deeside Dragons in 12-goal thriller

Ben Richards in action for Whitley Warriors against Deeside Dragons. Picture by Ian Hanlon - IceHockeyMedia

Ben Richards in action for Whitley Warriors against Deeside Dragons. Picture by Ian Hanlon - IceHockeyMedia

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Whitley Warriors continued their recent run of good form when they saw off Deeside Dragons on Sunday evening at Hillheads.

The home side beat their Welsh visitors for the third time in the league this season in what turned into a 12-goal thriller.

The Dragons were on fire in the early stages as they made a superb start to go 2-0 up inside three minutes with goals from import duo Filip Supa and Markus Kankaanranta.

Following the early setback,Warriors brought netminder Rory Dunn into the action.

But Deeside player-coach Scott McKenzie extended his side’s lead on 12 minutes when he fired home a powerplay marker.

Warriors grabbed their first of the game late on in the opening period when the lively Ben Richards grabbed a powerplay goal after being set up nicely by DJ Good and David Longstaff.

The middle session of play saw Dragons go 4-1 ahead when Ryan Jones netted an unassisted marker.

But Warriors got themselves back into the game thanks to strikes from skipper Dean Holland and player-coach David Longstaff.

They then got a powerplay opportunity late in the second period when Dragons captain James Parsons was sent to the sin bin for interference, however, Deeside were able to grab a short handed goal through Supa which saw the Welsh side hold a 5-3 lead after 40 minutes of action.

Warriors opted to swap their netminders at the second intermission which saw Richie Lawson ice for the third period as the home side looked to take a positive result from the game.

Two minutes into the third period, Harry Harley grabbed a sweetly struck powerplay strike for Whitley after some nice build up play which saw both Dean Holland and Longstaff orchestrating the move to reduce the home side’s deficit and make the contest a one-goal game.

Callum Watson went close for Warriors shortly afterwards, but the game tieing goal did not take long as the industrious Jordan Barnes lit the lamp from close range with 47 minutes on the clock.

Warriors were generating forward opportunities and Deeside’s young goalie Jonah Armstrong looked a little rattled after his goal almost fell on him after a coming together behind his net.

Barnes grabbed his second goal of the game to fire Warriors into the lead for the first time with 53 minutes on the clock after a superb move from Whitley on the delayed penalty whistle, which saw the Tynesiders launch a swift counter attack which resulted in the Hillheads crowd almost lifting the roof off the old rink as Longstaff’s side took a 6-5 lead.

Whitley were now looking dangerous every time they went forward and skipper Dean Holland fired home late on to seal the victory which saw the Tynesiders complete a superb comeback.

Richards was named Warrior’ man of the match while Supa was chosen as the Dragons’ top player.

Warriors captain Dean Holland shared his thoughts on the game.

“We are really pleased with the two points, but we gave away a 4-1 lead early on, we just weren’t ready to play in the early stages of the game,” he said.

“Richie [Lawson] went back in goal for the third period to freshen it up again, and when he’s on his game he’s one of the best goalies in the league.

“We went with two lines in the third period, it’s not what we want to do but it can work and it worked for us tonight as we got the result we wanted.

“Ben [Richards] played well tonight, he has great skills and he could go onto play with great players in the top leagues in his career if he commits himself like he can do.

“Looking ahead we have Solway next weekend and we’ll be training on Wednesday and Thursday to prepare us for that clash.”

Warriors face two cup away games before the next game at home at Hillheads, which is a NIHL North League game against local rivals the Billingham Stars on Sunday, January 29, at the usual face-off time of 5pm.