WITH several players carrying knocks and rested ahead of this weekend’s play-off semi final against Blackburn Hawks, it was an under-strength Warriors side that travelled to an already relegated Solihull Barons for the final league game of the season.
However, it was the visitors that opened the scoring when DJ Good was put in by older brother Mark to net inside the first five minutes.
But it was a lead that lasted until 11.49 when Slovakian born centre Erik Bakalar scored his 100th goal for the Barons.
Whitley took the lead once again at 26.37 when youngsters Harry Harley and Christian Johnson combined for the latter to find the net, but it was the home side who stepped up the pace after that to score twice in a couple of minutes.
Rob Eley pulled them level when they scored their second powerplay marker of the night on 31 minutes and then Richard Slater scored what proved to be the game winning goal for the home side at 33.47.
The final session saw Whitley pepper the Solihull net, but it seemed to be one of those nights when the puck managed to slide the wrong side of the post, or the keeper was able to make a telling save; the result being the Warriors slipped to their first defeat since the opening weekend of January.
“We only had 13 skaters and were without our number one keeper,” said Dowd after the game, “so really, although you never want to lose, it was more about completing the fixtures and making sure no-one picked up an injury.
“But to be fair to Solihull, they were really up for the game and wanted to make sure they finished on a high in front of their own fans after a disappointing season, and if they had shown the same commitment all season that they did tonight, I doubt the Barons would be in the position they are now.”
Against a side with eight more players on their bench, the Warriors were always going to be up against it, but Dowd was pleased his side remained competitive for the full 60 minutes.
“We worked hard and maybe didn’t get the breaks,” he said, “but even though we lacked the intensity that would have been apparent if we had needed the points to confirm our final league position, I couldn’t fault the effort from everyone.”
Whitley now look forward to a two-legged play-off semi-final with Blackburn Hawks this weekend, with the second game at Hillheads on Sunday (face-off 5pm).
“I expect everyone to be available for the weekend,” said Dowd, “no one has an injury that will keep him out and in most cases they could have played against Solihull, but we just didn’t see the need to take the risk.”
Whitley and Blackburn contest the first leg of the semi-final in Lancashire on Saturday, with the return at Hillheads 24 hours later on April 1.
Tickets for the second leg are available at the door on Sunday, priced at adults £7.50, under 16s and concessions £5.50, while a family ticket is available for £22.
The action gets under way at 5pm, with the doors opening 30 minutes before face-off.