It was a mixed bag of results for Whitley Warriors this weekend as the team from Hillheads were able to pick up their first road win in the Moralee Conference on Saturday evening at Manchester Minotaurs before suffering cup defeat at the hands of Solway Sharks at home Sunday night.
A brace from forward Alex Lawson and goals from Dean Holland, DJ Good and young Ben Richards saw Warriors run out 5-1 winners against a spirited Manchester Minotaurs outfit who are yet to taste victory this campaign.
Ironically it was Manchester who opened the scoring at 1.08 when Michael Gilbert scored a power play goal whilst Warriors D man Daniel Pye was sitting a two-minute penalty for holding. That early goal was as good as it got for the home team though as Warriors hit back just before the end of the first through Dean Holland before Richards and Lawson extended the visitors’ lead to 3-1 by the end of the second period.
Minotaurs just could not gain a foothold in the game and Warriors completed a comfortable night’s work when Alex Lawson notched his second of the game and DJ Good rounded off the scoring to make it a 5-1 road success.
On to Sunday and Warriors were in St Andrew’s Cup action against reigning Moralee Conference champions Solway Sharks on Tyneside.
Simon Leach’s side were without Dan Harris, Jordan Barnes, Scott Cooper and Adam Reynolds in their attempts to overturn a 4-1 first leg deficit but Warriors were boosted by the return of experienced blue-liner Rob Wilson.
After an impeccably observed minute’s silence for Remembrance Sunday, the Warriors were straight after their opponents as soon as the puck had dropped.
A sustained period of pressure almost created the perfect opening when Gary Russell in the Sharks net was only able to block a fierce Dean Holland bullet from the high slot after four minutes; the puck dropping invitingly in front of goal but with no Warriors player able to tuck away the rebound.
Holland was again in the thick of the action at 9.57 when the lad from Walkergate was adjudged to have been guilty of a check from behind on Sharks Alan Crane resulting in a 2+10 punishment.
Solway called on their power play unit to take to the ice and saw their special team make the difference almost immediately. Just nine seconds after being handed the man advantage, the big frame of Jens Engelen was able to hold on to the puck near the point and feed across to Craig Mitchell who quickly took aim and fired through bodies beyond Richie Lawson to put Sharks 1-0 up on the power play after 10.06.
Into the second period and Sharks started out controlling the flow of the game.
Stevie Moore should have made it 2-0 after 24 minutes only to see an outstanding recovery dive from Lawson deny what had seemed an open target finish.
Once again Warriors established themselves on the front foot. Captain Jamie Tinsley saw an unbelievable shorthanded chance to level come and go before the outstanding Russell stood tall to deny Callum Queenan.
Knowing they had only 20 minutes left to keep their cup hopes alive, Warriors turned things up a notch in the final period throwing everything at Russell in the Sharks net yet time and again their efforts went unrewarded.
When Dean Holland somehow managed to wriggle out of a tight spot in the corner and force a route back towards goal it looked like this was the moment those inside Hillheads had been waiting for.
Poised to place the puck into the roof of the net, Holland looked certain to score with defenders scrambling to get back at him only for his effort to be blocked by Sharks man-of-the-match Gary Russell.
With 59 seconds remaining, Warriors pulled netminder Richie Lawson to allow for an extra skater but Russell and his colleagues stood firm to take a 1-0 win and run out 5-1 winner of the St Andrews Cup over two legs.