Whitley Warriors entertained play-off rivals Sutton Sting on Sunday evening at Hillheads but suffered a heavy defeat.
They were able to include skipper Jamie Tinsley and Dan Harris on their roster as both had regained full fitness since the club’s last game against Blackburn Hawks.
But Warriors were without their senior goaltender as Richie Lawson had to pull out of the match with a knee injury on the morning of the game, while veteran ‘d’ man Paul Matthews was also unable to ice due to injury.
Sting grabbed the game’s opening goal two minutes in when Matt Jeffcock fired past youngster Mark Turnbull in Warriors net.
Whitley were able to level the game up eight minutes later when Dean Holland lit the lamp with a powerful shot after he was set up by nicely by linemate Jamie Tinsley.
The home side were not on level terms for long, though, as a penalty shot from Carl Ashton on 14 minutes saw Sutton regain the lead.
And Sting extended their advantage in the dying seconds of the opening period when the experienced John Ross found the back of the net with a precise finish.
The second period saw no further goals from either side, however, Warriors went close with Callum Watson testing the reflexes of Sutton goalie Dmitri Zimzodra on a couple of occasions.
It was Sutton who netted the games next goal when Jamie Spurr fired home to make it 4-1 with 43 minutes on the clock.
Shortly after Warriors coach Simon Leach took the brave decision to withdraw netminder Mark Turnbull in favour of an extra outskater as Whitley looked to grab a goal and get back into the game.
But they were unable to place the Sting defence under a great deal of pressure and could not find a way past Zimzodra, and with just over ten minutes left Sting import Ivo Celar was able to break out of his own defensive zone and fire the puck into Warriors’ empty net to make it 5-1 to the visitors.
Celar picked up his second goal of the match three minutes later when the Slovakian applied a cool finish after pleasing build up play from lively Jamie Spurr, which saw the game end 6-1 in Sutton’s favour.
Sting’s in-from netminder Zimzodra was chosen as Sutton’s man of the match while Warriors’ hard working forward Martin Crammond was selected as the home side’s top player during the encounter.
After the game Leach said: “That was a very disappointing game for us, we started poorly and gifted them a number of goals in the first period.
“We hoped to stopped them scoring in the second period and pick up a goal or two ourselves, we managed to achieve the first part of our game plan but we just couldn’t score.
“The third period saw us give up another soft goal and go 4-1 down, and in a must win game such as this one I needed to pull our goalie to try and get a goal back.
“We managed to control the puck well but at times in the wrong areas, and we didn’t create enough genuine chances when we had the extra man on the ice.
“The guys have all worked hard but we are a team low on confidence at the minute and we just need to turn that round.
“We were able to out-shoot our opponents tonight but we are just not taking the chances we are creating.”
Warriors’ next game is on Sunday, February 22, when Blackburn Hawks visit Hillheads in a NIHL North Division 1 match.
The game gets under way at the normal face-off time of 5pm with doors due to open 30 minutes prior to the game.