Whitley Warriors secured a narrow 4-3 win over Sutton Sting at Hillheads at the weekend.
Warriors had a full roster available apart from the injured Ross Hanlon, who was ruled out of the game with a knee injury.
New signing Ryan Sample was included in the squad for the first time since he re-signed for the club and he operated on Warriors’ third forward line during his comeback appearance.
Once the action got under way, Sutton flew out of the blocks as Canadian import forward Thomas Stuart-Dant fired them into the lead with just two minutes on the clock.
The visitors continued to create openings and Chris Sykes made it 2-0 just before the four minutes mark, much to the delight of the travelling bench and their supporters.
Despite conceding the two early goals, Warriors’ game plan was unaffected and they were rewarded when Adam Reynolds lit the lamp just before seven minutes with an unassisted goal.
Reynolds was in the thick of the action and three minutes later he set up DJ Good who slotted home to tie the game at 2-2.
There were no further goals in the first period, however, Warriors did run into some penalty trouble as Sample was given two minutes in the sin bin for boarding while skipper DJ Good was penalised for holding his opponent’s stick.
Whitley were able to kill off both of these penalties thanks to some disciplined defensive work from their short handed units.
Mark Turner fired Sting into a 3-2 lead midway through the second period with a powerplay strike after Warriors’ Rob Wilson was sent to the box on a tripping call.
No further goals were scored in the middle session of play, which saw Warriors going into the final 20 minutes needing two goals to take the two points that were on offer.
Whitley started the third period positively and after some nice approach play from Reynolds, Karl Culley fired into an empty net to tie the contest at three apiece.
Warriors netminder Richie Lawson also picked up an assist as his clearance had found Reynolds in space on the wing in the build up to the goal.
The home team were looking dangerous on every attack and Simon Leach’s side went into the lead on 47 minutes when Reynolds netted his second of the game and sixth of the season after some nice approach play from line-mate Culley and defenceman Tommy Ralph.
Whitley continued to create chances but Sting netminder Dmitri Zimozdra was in fine form, stopping a number of goal bound efforts.
His best save came when Reynolds went one-on-one and powered a shot to his left, where Zimozdra took the puck cleanly.
Despite some late pressure, Warriors were able to hold out for the victory in front of another pleasing crowd at Hillheads.
Whitley now have nine points from the six games, which firmly puts the Tynesiders in the play-off picture at the top of the NIHL North Moralee Conference.
Reynolds was deservedly chosen as Warriors’ man of the match for his 4 (2+2) point haul while Sting ‘d’ man Simon Offord was selected as the visitors’ best player on the night.
After the contest, Whitley coach Leach said: “It was a good game, they are a quality team.
“Again we’ve had to come back from a couple of goals down. We seem to be doing things the hard way at the minute but we had a game plan and if I’m honest we had enough opportunities to win the game.
“Their netminder played well. We got off to a flying start in the third period with Adam Reynolds setting up Culley for a fantastically worked goal, which put them on the back foot a bit.
“We got ourselves ahead and we then played an extremely disciplined game.
“Because of the stop/start nature of the beginning of our season, it’s been difficult to get any momentum going, but everyone has played well tonight.
“Our top players played well, and you’ve got to give credit to Adam (Reynolds) tonight.”
Warriors take on Sutton again next weekend when the two teams meet at Sting’s home venue Ice Sheffield on Sunday afternoon.
Whitley’s next home fixture is the weekend after when Manchester Minotaurs travel up to the north east on Sunday, November 3 (face-off 5pm) for an NIHL North Moralee Conference match-up in Whitley Bay.
Fans are reminded the club’s annual Hallowe’en party is being held at 42nd Street on Friday, November 1.
All the Warriors will be in attendance and there will be games, fancy dress and a buffet. Tickets can be obtained from the Whitley Warriors Supporters’ Club.