WHITLEY Warriors came within 20 minutes of causing one of the biggest upsets in British ice hockey history last night, when they led Elite League Newcastle Vipers 4-3 before falling to two late goals.
The game began at a blistering pace, but it was the Vipers who drew first blood via Toms Hartmanis. However, the lead lasted less than a minute before Ryan Sample roofed the puck to draw the ENL side level.
Hartmanis put Newcastle 2-1 ahead on 10 minutes, but once again the Warriors struck back via Callum Watson on 16 min.
Then Whitley skipper Adam Reynolds gave his side the lead for the first time, just 40 seconds later. Newcastle would have hoped to start the middle period in better fashion, but it was the English National League champions that came out flying and increased their lead.
Pavol Melichercik – one of four Solway Sharks players on loan to the Warriors for the night – flashed the puck passed debutant Vipers keeper Charlie Effingfer.
The Elite League outfit upped their game after that, but were denied by a determined Whitley side – and an outstanding display from netminder James Flavell.
Former Whitley defender Sam Zajac gave the Vipers a lifeline during the powerplay and as the Warriors tired it was Newcastle captain Paul Sample – another former Whitley man – who tied the game at 4-4.
The ENL side then conceded what proved to be the winning goal when Scott Langdon spared the Vipers’ blushes late on.