WITH the English National League North title already secured for a consecutive season, Whitley Warriors were hoping to extend their unbeaten run against a Lions’ team looking for points to secure a play-off slot.
And the Midlands outfit made the best possible start when Joe Wightman put them ahead on two minutes, as Whitley made a sluggish start to the game.
The home equaliser came at 13.23 when Callum Watson cut in from the right wing and unleashed a shot that flew across the Nottingham goalie into the far corner of the net before he had time to react.
It was a different Warriors who emerged from the dressing room for the middle session and they were on the offensive from the first start.
Shaun Kippin smashed the puck home from close range to put Whitley ahead at 21.25 and from the face-off the Warriors stung their visitors by scoring again just eight seconds later as Adam Reynolds drove his way through the Lions defence.
Peter Zajac extended the home lead further when he netted in the 31st minute to make it three games in a row he has scored.
Whitley had now shaken off their early game lethargy and goal five came at 44.39 when Reynolds forced the puck over the line from close range, but five minutes later the Lions kept themselves in contention when Nick Whyatt shot through traffic from distance, with Whitley keeper James Flavell unsighted.
The Warriors then wrapped the game up in dramatic fashion as they netted three times inside the last three minutes to put some gloss on was by the end a good team performance.
Josh Maddock started the late goal rush with his first ever senior goal when he netted on the powerplay at 56.40 and a minute later Watson scored his second of the night.
But it was the final goal of the night that brought the biggest cheer as Adam Robinson bundled the puck home against his former club to make it 8-2 with only 46 seconds left on the clock.
Whitley had been in Northern League action away to Fife Flyers the night before, but came away on the wrong end of a 4-1 score line as the league leaders took a big step towards winning the title; and putting a huge dent in the Warriors hopes of adding that trophy to the one already won.
However, despite the defeat in Scotland, coach Simon Leach was still upbeat about the performance of his side in the game.
“I was disappointed that we lost the game, but extremely happy with the way the lads played and on another night things could have been so different,” he said.
“Fife are a good side and you can’t afford to give them too much space, which we did for a couple of their goals, but at the other end of the ice we didn’t seem to have too much luck with the puck hitting, sticks, skates and bouncing off bodies.
“Even at 3-0 down at the end of the second, I felt we were just a goal away from getting back into the game,” he added, “but we just couldn’t get that break we needed and the final score of 4-1 was a little harsh on the effort we put in over the 60 minutes, because we gave as good as we got and worked our socks off all night.”
Against Nottingham, Leach was none too pleased with the first period performance and let his players know.
“I told the players we have to play as we did in Fife and at Solway the previous weekend every time we step on the ice; we can’t just go through the motions when we play ENL games, but for the first period we just didn’t really get going,” he admitted.
“I was very frustrated with that opening session and let the players know that at the interval, but they responded well, were very quickly 3-1 ahead and closed the game out after that; but to be honest I thought we played better on Saturday and lost.”
However, they did turn things around and the coach was especially pleased to see Adam Robinson and Josh Maddock get on the score sheet.
“Adam admitted afterwards he has never celebrated the eighth goal of a game so much as he did tonight,” said Leach, “but I know how much it meant to him and it was reward for all the hard work he does.
“I was also delighted for Josh, it’s always nice to get your first goal, he will take home the match puck as a souvenir and that will give him the confidence to go on and do even better in the future.”
The Warriors have just one game this weekend when Flintshire Freeze are the visitors to Hillheads for a Northern League game with the action getting underway at 5pm.
“We will be giving netminder James Flavell a rest,” confirmed Leach.
“Calvin Khass will start the game, youngster Joseph Harley will be on the bench and we will be looking to give him some ice time.
“Flintshire may be in division two when it comes to the ENL, but as Northern League opponents they must be respected and will come to Hillheads with nothing to lose, so we must go out and perform as we would against any other side that comes to Hillheads.”