Whitley Warriors took on the Solway Sharks in their opening game of the 2016/17 season on Sunday evening on Tyneside.
Warriors were captained by new skipper Dean Holland and had the likes of David Longstaff, Andre Payette and Harry Harley in their squad though blue liners Joe Stamp and Dan Pye were not able to ice for the Tynesiders.
Once the action got underway it was Solway who grabbed the game’s first goal when Connor Henderson netted an unassisted marker into the top corner of the net for Martin Grubb’s side. Warriors were soon level though when Dean Holland assisted by Callum Watson and Harry Harley lit the lamp from close range after a scramble infront of the Sharks net.
Warriors iced three forward lines throughout the contest with youngster Liam Brown getting regular shifts on Whitley’s third line.
In defence Warriors opted to use experienced d men Harley, Payette and Maddock alongside youngsters Smedley and Johnson as Whitley shuffled their rear guard a little to cover for the absence of Pye and Stamp.
It was Solway who had the better of the remainder of the first period though as Sharks were able to net a further three times through Rick Bentham, Duncan Speirs and import d man Juraj Senko to lead 4-1 after the first stanza of action.
Solway extended their lead shortly into the second period when youngster Connor Henderson grabbed a well worked goal for the visitors.
Warriors were showing plenty of spirit and guile though and Whitley’s debutant Liam Brown almost got a goal back for the home side when visiting net minder Kieran Hobbins just managed to keep Brown’s penalty shot out with 33 minutes on the clock.
Whitley were able to find the net just seconds later though when DJ Good fired home from distance to the delight of the sizeable home crowd in attendance.
Sharks were however able to grab a goal towards the end of the middle stanza of action when Rick Bentham sweetly fired home.
Bentham completed his hat-trick shortly into the final period of play and Sharks went onto net a further two strikes which saw the side from the Scottish borders skate to a 9-2 victory.
Warriors defenceman Josh Maddock left the ice during the third period with a nasty looking injury and it is hoped that he will back in action in time for next weekend’s double header of games.
Livewire Solway forward Connor Henderson was named Sharks Man of the Match while Warriors goaltender Richie Lawson was selected as the best Whitley player on the evening.
Warriors Player/Coach David Longstaff shared his thoughts on Warriors pre season program and his side’s game against Sharks.
“It’s been a difficult pre season for us and our lack of warm up games was a big factor tonight and I think that was Solway’s fourth or fifth game of the season and you could tell that at times.
“Liam Smedley and Craig Johnson, two 18 year old kids, were taking regular shifts for us all game tonight on defence and they did really well for us.
“I’m hoping Josh Maddock’s injury won’t be too serious as he’s an important player for us especially when we are short of bodies on defence like we are at the moment.
“Dean Holland is our captain this year, Callum Watson and Shaun Kippin are the alternates and I think they’ll be the guys we use in those positions over the course of the season as they are three of the players who will be there for us throughout the season playing in the majority of games.
“A lot of our guys will be missing games for work and other commitments so it is going to be tough for us.
“We’ve just got to do what we can out on the ice and be tough to beat, other teams in this league are able to pay their players well which allows them to recruit from a higher level and get guys who have been very successful in leagues like the English Premier League and we aren’t able to do that.”
Warriors are back in action next weekend when Whitley face a double header of games with an away game at Blackburn on Saturday evening before a match up on home ice next Sunday when Whitley take on the Solihull Barons in a game that faces off at 5pm at Hillheads.
Warriors games with Barons have been hard hitting match ups in recent times and next week’s game looks like it could be a good match up with both sides looking to pick up points early on in the league campaign.