Whitley Warriors took part in two NIHL North Division 1 contests last weekend as Simon Leach’s side travelled down to Ice Sheffield on Saturday afternoon to take on Sutton Sting before facing Sheffield Spartans on home ice on Sunday evening on Tyneside.
Warriors were missing a number of senior defencemen for the Sting game which resulted in forwards Alex Lawson and Harry Harley moving back to the blue line.
Teenage forwards Joe Hall and Connor Shanks both stepped up from the under-18s to make their senior debuts.
Despite being short benched Whitley started the game on the front foot and took the lead with just 62 seconds played when Jamie Tinsley lit the lamp from close range with DJ Good and Callum Watson providing the assists.
Sutton were creating plenty of their own chances, though, and the home side led 2-1 by the eighth minute thanks to efforts from John Ross and Shaun Ashton.
But they were not behind for long as Craig Johnson levelled the scores two minutes later when his powerful shot from just inside the blue line flew into the back of the net to the delight of Whitley’s travelling fans.
It was Sutton who grabbed the early goal in the second session through import Slav Movko, and the talented Latvian forward made it 4-2 when he grabbed a superb solo effort.
Warriors were creating numerous openings of their own as Adam Reynolds saw his powerful shot cannon against the post and a close range effort from Callum Watson was saved by Sutton’s impressive netminder Dmitri Zimzodra.
Whitley opted to change their netminder for the third period with the experienced Richie Lawson taking over from youngster Mark Turnbull.
Warriors had the better of the session and Watson made it a one goal game after 51 minutes when he fired home after some pleasing build-up play from DJ Good and skipper Jamie Tinsley.
With under two minutes left in the game Whitley coach Dave Holland took a time out to outline his tactics to his side.
Warriors opted to pull netminder Lawson so they could have the extra out skater in the contest, but they were unable to make the extra man count and Sting held on for a narrow 4-3 victory.
Warriors’ teenage blue liner Johnson was chosen as Whitley’s man of the match, however, every member of the Tynesiders’ roster gave their all against a strong Sutton side who were at full strength. Sting’s Slav Movko was chosen as the home side’s best player.
The following evening Warriors took on the Sheffield Spartans but were still without several of their experienced ‘d’ men, although player-coach Leach and Josh Maddock were both back on the roster having missed the game the previous day.
Warriors just could not get into the game during the first period and after 20 minutes they were 4-0 down.
The second session also started badly from a Whitley point of view as Spartans skipper Ollie Barron made it 5-0 just 55 seconds in.
Whitley managed to grab their first goal of the game under a minute later when Reynolds scrambled the puck home.
Warriors upped their intensity which caused the Sheffield defence a number of problems and it came as no surprise when Callum Queenan grabbed a further goal for the home side just after the hour mark when he lit the lamp after being set up nicely by line-mate Reynolds.
They continued to create openings and a deflected Kyle Ross effort almost caught Sheffield’s in-form netminder Brandon Stones out, however, the highly thought of goaltender was able just able to stop the puck crossing the goal line.
The Tynesiders were dealt a huge blow in the third period when Leach had to leave the contest due to a knee injury.
The vastly experienced ‘d’ man looked in a great deal of pain as he was helped from the ice and it is hoped that the injury is not as serious as it first appeared.
Warriors were unable to find a way back into the game in the final session and late in proceedings Sheffield defenceman Jonathan Kirk picked up a goal when his long rang effort was misjudged by Whitley netminder Lawson which saw the game end 6-2 in Spartans favour.
Warriors’ Queenan, who was called up by GB Under-18’s last week, was chosen as their man of the match for his energetic display while the visitors netminder Brandon Stones was chosen as the top Sheffield player during the contest.
Whitley will be looking to get back to winning ways next weekend when the Manchester Minotaurs visit the north east for a NIHL North Division 1 match.
The game will get under way at Warriors’ customary 5pm face-off time.