Whitley Warriors edge Telford Tigers to retain top spot

Whitley Warriors import Andre Payette and Telford Tigers' Dan Croft trade blows. Both were given four minutes in penalties for fighting. Picture by Colin Lawson - IceHockeyMedia
Whitley Warriors import Andre Payette and Telford Tigers' Dan Croft trade blows. Both were given four minutes in penalties for fighting. Picture by Colin Lawson - IceHockeyMedia

Whitley Warriors retained top sport in the NIHL North Division 1 with a 4-3 win over Telford Tigers on Sunday night at Hillheads.

Warriors were without Dean Holland and Alex Lawson who were both ruled out through injury.

Just six seconds into the contest Whitley import Andre Payette and Tigers influential d-man Dan Croft dropped the gloves and traded blows. Both were given four minutes in penalties for fighting.

The home side created a number of chances before player-coach David Longstaff almost opened the scoring with seven minutes on the clock when his effort cannoned back off the cross bar.

Ben Richards also went close around a minute later when Telford netminder Bell had to be at his best to thwart the Warriors winger.

Josh Maddock then came to blows with Tigers forward Callum Bowley. Maddock was also given a slashing penalty which saw Tigers presented with a powerplay opportunity.

Telford’s specialist team worked the puck well but Whitley’s defence was able to kill off the penalty and after 20 minutes of combative hockey the scores remained level.

Six minutes into the middle period Warriors took the lead when Callum Watson grabbed his fourth goal of the season after being nicely set up by Jordan Barnes and Shaun Kippin.

Seconds later Tigers’ James Smith was penalised for tripping and on the resulting powerplay Jamie Tinsley stabbed home from close range to give Warriors a 2-0 lead.

Whitley continued to create openings throughout the remainder of the period and shortly before the end Martin Crammond found the back of the net when his shot got the better of Telford’s teenage goaltender Bell.

The third period saw Telford come right back into the game and they grabbed their first goal on 46 minutes when Adam Taylor fired home on the powerplay after Warriors’ DJ Good had been penalised for tripping.

The visitors were clearly lifted by their opening strike and minutes later James Smith found the bottom corner of the net from distance to make it 3-2.

Tigers continued to look dangerous and with under five minutes remaining stalwart Karol Jets got the equaliser with youngsters James Smith and Callum Bowley picking up the assists.

Fifteen seconds later, Tigers’ Daniel Harrison was sent to the sin bin for a tripping misdemeanour which gave Warriors a late powerplay opportunity.

And the home side made the most of the man advantage when Richards found the back of the net from close range with only three seconds of the powerplay remaining to the delight of the large crowd at Hillheads.

Telford called a time out immediately after Warriors’ fourth goal to outline their tactics over the remaining two and a half minutes, however, Whitley were able to see out the final minutes of the contest and claim the two points on offer thanks to a 4-3 victory.

Richards was chosen as Warriors’ man of the match while Tigers’ Denis Bell was selected as the visitors top performer.

Whitley assistant coach Dave Holland said: “A brilliant result for us this evening. They have a good team, an outstanding netminder and a number of good young forwards in their line-up.

“When we were 3-0 up we introduced some of our younger players but when the game got tighter we had to cut the lines a little bit.

“I thought Kyle Ross did well, he took shifts on a couple of different of lines and did well with his speed.

“Ben Richards’ late strike was a really important last goal for us and he took it well.

“His line with DJ Good and Martin Crammond did really well tonight and the opposition struggled to control them when they got in the zone.

“We haven’t picked up any knocks from the game, which is of course good. Youngster Craig Johnson is out of the frame at the minute, though, as he has soft tissue damage to his hand so we won’t be risking him.”

Warriors are in action on home ice once again next weekend when Sutton Sting visit North Tyneside on Sunday evening for a game that gets under way at the normal face-off time of 5pm.

Warriors will be looking to keep their unbeaten start to the season intact against John Ross’s outfit who grabbed their first points of the season at the weekend when they beat Sheffield Spartans 7-5 at Ice Sheffield.