Warriors down gritty Hawks

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Whitley Warriors achieved a 4-3 home victory over Steven Duncombe’s Blackburn Hawks on Sunday evening.

After some end-to-end play early in the first period, the Warriors gained an advantage on 2.34 when Hawks’ defenceman Ollie Lomax was punished for delaying the game.

Spurred on, Whitley eventually bagged a 1-0 lead when Latvian defenceman Rolands Gritāns’ blue line shot rocketed into the net on 10.01. Persevering, Blackburn equalised 20 seconds before the first interval when Whitley’s attempts to muscle Czech forward Petr Valusiak off the puck failed.

As play once again moved rapidly between zones in the second period, Warrior Martin Crammond incurred a penalty. However, the Hawks soon went shorthanded as defenceman Ross Kennedy’s interference penalty was instantly followed by a faceoff violation from Valusiak.

Despite Whitley’s eventual 5-on-3 advantage, Walker withstood the Warriors’ onslaught and the Warriors continued to trouble Blackburn and their offensive work finally paid off when winger Ben Campbell cut back in front of the shot stopper and scored on 37.59.

Quick to respond, the Hawks drew level in the final minute of the period when forward James Riddoch broke clear of Whitley’s defence before rounding netminder Jordan Boyle to guide the puck home.

The score line 2-2 heading into the final stanza, Blackburn found the target just 76 seconds in as Valusiak claimed his second goal of the evening. Unnerved, the Warriors built in offence and a perfect pass from David Longstaff to Campbell allowed the winger to fire past Walker on 44.56.

At 3-3, Whitley bombarded Blackburn’s defence and their efforts were converted when Campbell greeted Longstaff’s pass to net from close range on 50.12.

In the closing stages, the Warriors reduced to four men, Blackburn called a timeout on 59.40 and pulled Walker from his net to allow themselves a 6-on-4 advantage. Struggling to grab an empty net goal, the home side held out for a slender victory.