Warriors unable to clip Blackburn Hawks’ wings

Whitley Warriors' Dean Holland in action against Blackburn Hawks at Hillheads.
Whitley Warriors' Dean Holland in action against Blackburn Hawks at Hillheads.

Whitley Warriors hosted league leaders Blackburn Hawks on Sunday evening on Tyneside in a NIHL North Division 1 encounter and end up on the wrong end of an 8-2 scoreline.

Warriors were without Adam Reynolds, Daniel Pye and Jordan Barnes through injury while club skipper Jamie Tinsley was unavailable, which saw DJ Good step in to captain the side.

Warriors started well and took the lead just five minutes when Dean Holland found the back of the net from close range in acres of space after Hawks’ defence had switched off as they thought the puck had gone out of play.

Blackburn ran into some penalty trouble during the first period of play, which presented Whitley with a number of powerplay opportunities. But Warriors could not make their man advantage count.

Whitley were dealt a blow during the opening period when veteran Paul Matthews had to leave the ice with an ankle injury.

Blackburn flew out of the blocks in the middle session as just 18 seconds in Hawks’ player-coach Jared Owen netted the equaliser.

And just 50 seconds later the visitors took the lead when the in-form Luke Brittle netted an unassisted marker.

Warriors almost responded straight away, howeve,r youngster Callum Queenan was just unable to find the back of the net when he had a good opening at the back post.

Whitley were able to tie the game up though on 27 minutes when Callum Watson fired past Hawks’ Stuart Ashton with a sweet shot after some eye-catching work from DJ Good and the lively Queenan.

After 33 minutes of the period Warriors blue liner Josh Maddock was given a minor penalty for holding and Blackburn made the most of their powerplay as Luke Brittle fired home which saw Hawks take the lead once more.

The visitors grabbed a fourth before the end of the second period when Owen lit the lamp after some nice build up play from the Brittle brothers Luke and Adam.

Warriors looked to use the speed of Watson and Queenan early in the third period, however, Hawks’ defence was able to thwart Whitley’s offensive efforts and Blackburn grabbed their fifth goal of the contest after 45 minutes when the hard working Aaron Davies fired past senior goaltender Richie Lawson.

Three minutes later Hawks skipper Chris Arnone found the back of the net with Davies being credited with an assist.

Hawks soon had their seventh goal of the evening when Jordan Bannon netted unassisted shortly afterwards.

Warriors opted to change their netminder at this point with young goalie Mark Turnbull replacing Lawson between the pipes.

Whitley also opted to give some of their younger players such as Kyle Ross and Craig Johnson some ice time late on given the scoreline.

The home side ran into penalty problems towards the end of the game and were given five minor penalties alongside two misconduct infringements in the last five minutes.

Hawks took advantage and Arnone netted his second of the game late on which saw Blackburn claim an 8-2 victory and remain unbeaten in the league this term.

Luke Brittle, who picked up four points during the contest, was chosen as Hawks’ man of the match while Queenan was elected Warriors’ best player.

Whitley coach Simon Leach said: “I thought we just edged the first period, we started the second period slowly though, and gave them two goals to get back into the game.

“We quickly managed to level it but then ended up giving them a two-goal advantage going into the final period.

“We gave them far too much time in the third, lost our discipline and then lost the last period 4-0.

“We were a little short at the back, Paul Matthews had to go off with an ankle injury and then Scott Cooper dislocated his shoulder, had it put back in, came back out onto the ice and then it went again, so we have to take our hats off to him for that.

“We are hopeful that we might have Adam Reynolds back for our next game, however, we are getting a forward back and could be losing a body or two from our defence.”

Warriors’ next game is on January 4 when Solway Sharks travel down to Tyneside from Dumfries for a NIHL North match.

Face-off is at 5pm for what should be an end to end game of hockey between two of the top NIHL North sides.