Whitley Warriors lost the Tees-Tyne derby against Billingham Stars after heading to Teesside short of a number of senior players.
The Sunday night NIHL North Division 1 contest saw the home side run out comfortable 4-1 winners.
Warriors were without a number of senior players due to suspension and injury as the likes of Andre Payette, Callum Queenan, Stu Tomlinson and Scott Cooper were all unable to take to the ice for David Longstaff’s side.
Whitley were still able to ice a squad of 15 skaters plus two netminders with skipper Jamie Tinsley leading them out onto the ice while Joe Stamp and Dan Pye were named as alternate captains.
They trailed 1-0 after the opening period as Stars grabbed the game’s first goal through import Dennis Bostrum.
Both sides had powerplay opportunities during the opening session, however, neither were able to make their man advantage count.
Billingham’s Swedish import Bostrum went onto make it 2-0 seven minutes into the middle period of play after being set up by Chris Sykes and Michael Bowman.
Stars then grabbed a third through Andy Finn, while player-coach Longstaff went close with an effort for the visitors.
Warriors opted to change their netminder after 40 minutes with youngster Mark Turnbull replacing senior goalie Richie Lawson.
Midway through the final period, Warriors found the back of the net through the versatile Jordan Barnes with an unassisted marker to the delight of the travelling fans from North Tyneside.
But James Moss netted for the home side around two minutes later when he got the better of Turnbull.
Warriors’ man of the match was Joe Stamp, who put in a commendable display back on the blue line, while Richie Thornton was chosen as Stars’ best player on the night.
Following the game, Warriors long-serving forward DJ Good said: “It was a disappointing result for us. We weren’t at full strength squad wise, but we got some much needed match fitness/practice in preparation for the play-offs, which has to be a positive.
“Barnsey [Jordan Barnes] played out of position in defence and did a real good job and scored a quality goal.
“Dan Pye was strong at the back and it was good to have Skippy [Shaun Kippin] back from injury and Watto [Callum Watson] looked lively out on the ice.”
Whitley are in action on the road again next weekend when they play Sheffield Senators at Ice Sheffield in their last league game of the regular season before their Championship play-off programme gets under way.
The NIHL North play-offs are at Ice Sheffield over the weekend of April 9 and 10, with the semi-finals on the opening day and the final scheduled for the following day.
Whitley could well take on the Solihull Barons in the semi-final and either league champions Blackburn Hawks or Solway Sharks in the final.