Whitley Warriors slay Sheffield Spartans

Adam Reynolds, in white, who scored one goal and one assist threatening the Sheffield goal late in the match. Picture by Colin Edwards
Adam Reynolds, in white, who scored one goal and one assist threatening the Sheffield goal late in the match. Picture by Colin Edwards

Whitley Warriors defeated Sheffield Spartans on Sunday evening on North Tyneside in a NIHL North Moralee Conference encounter.

Whitley were without a number of their regular players as Karl Culley was out of action due to injury, Ben Richards was ruled out through illness and Tommy Ralph was unavailable as he was playing for the Hull Stingrays in the Elite League.

Whitley’s new signing, ‘D’ man Paul Matthews, came into the squad for the first time in a number of years after he agreed to come out of retirement.

Matthews was paired with Rob Wilson on Warriors’ second defensive unit throughout the match.

Warriors started the game well and just before the four-minute mark nippy winger Callum Watson fired home to put the home side into an early lead.

However, they did not hold onto their lead for long as under 40 seconds later Spartans forward Will Barron levelled the game up when he netted for the visitors.

Whitley were creating plenty of opportunities during the first period and they retook the lead after ten minutes when Adam Reynolds lit the lamp after being nicely set up by blue liner Christian Johnson.

After 14 minutes Warriors’ Wilson and Spartans Ollie Barron dropped the gloves and both players were given four minutes in penalties for roughing following the altercation just off centre ice.

Just 16 seconds after the fight Reynolds set up Jamie Tinsley who shot past Bradley Day in the Sheffield net to make it 3-1 in Warriors favour.

Whitley continued to create openings until the end of the first session of play, however, despite some attractive offensive play they could not add to their three goals.

Shortly into the second period Warriors extended their advantage when Jordan Barnes notched his seventh of the campaign when he tipped in a Matthews blast from the blue line.

Sheffield were also creating attacking opportunities of their own, though, and their captain Ollie Barron made it 4-2 when he found the back of the net just after the half hour mark.

Warriors picked up a few penalties later on the in second period, however, there was no further scoring and Whitley went into the final session of play with a two-goal lead.

Sheffield put the Warriors defence under plenty of pressure during the last period and Whitley goaltender Richie Lawson made several fine stops to prevent Sheffield from lighting the lamp.

With just less than four minutes left Warriors’ hard-working forward Martin Crammond got their fifth goal of the game with a superb slap shot.

A minute later there was more drama when Spartans coach Martin White was thrown out of the game on a misconduct penalty which saw his side on the penalty kill the remainder of the match.

That was not the last incident though as with just 90 seconds left in the match, referee Tony Boynton took a puck to the face and had to receive immediate medical treatment from Warriors’ physio out on the ice.

Thankfully the official was able to get to his feet shortly afterwards though he was visibly shaken.

Following the stoppage Warriors were able to play out the final part of the game and claim an impressive 5-2 victory over another side who are battling to make the end of season play-offs.

Whitley’s ‘D’ man Christian Johnson picked up their man of the match award while Andrew Cook was selected as the visitors top player over the course of the game.

Warriors coach Simon Leach said: “In the first period we played some of the best hockey we have for a long time, and given we had 25 shots we could have maybe got one or two more goals than we did.

“We got into some penalty trouble in the second period and that took some of the momentum away from us.

“The third period was end to end and a little bit too open for me, but we got that killer fifth goal and managed to see the game out and take the two points that were on offer.

“I’m really pleased with the lads as I think they’ve worked really hard tonight.

“The young lads have all done well, as has Paul Matthews, who has come back in after not playing for eight or nine years and has added stability at the back and he certainly didn’t look out of place.”

Warriors are in action again next weekend when they make their longest away trip of the campaign down to Shropshire on Sunday evening to take on the Telford Titans in a NIHL North Moralee Conference game.

Telford are yet to win a game yet this season but have added a number of quality players to their roster recently, so Warriors will have to be at their best to make sure they come away with the victory.