Whitley Warriors’ netminder Richie Lawson believes his team’s 6-0 demolition of reigning NIHL North champions Blackburn Hawks last weekend was proof they can match anyone in Moralee D1.
Warriors struggled for results during the early part of the season, but have bounced back with three successive wins in the league and cup to lift the mood around Hillheads.
“It was a fantastic result for us – confidence is high after a string of good performances,” said Lawson.
“I thought it was a dominating performance, where we took no pity on a depleted Hawks side. Whitley Bay is not a place visiting teams want to play at the best of times – let alone when short-handed.
“So many teams turn up with a short bench – ‘Whitley Flu’ springs to mind!”
After recording just one draw from their opening five games this term, Lawson thinks the team has really started to gel and pointed to their recent 3-2 road victory against the Hawks as an example of this.
“When we buy into our systems, and play with tenacity we can take points from any team in this league,” added Lawson.
“We went into the home game fully expecting two points, after coming away from Blackburn last weekend knowing we were the better team.
“The atmosphere was fantastic – a home ice shut-out in front of a big crowd and to pump six past the defending champs was great.
“We’re under no illusions though that there’s still room for improvement. There’s huge positives to be drawn, but no room for complacency heading into this week’s practice.”
Callum Watson’s superb hat-trick saw him chosen as the Warriors’ MVP, but Lawson singled out one of the team’s younger players for some special praise.
“Obviously Watto had a productive night with his hat-trick, including a spinorama goal too, but youngster Anthony Weatherall stood out to me – stepping right out of juniors and not looking a stride out of place,” said Lawson.
Hawks’ defeat at Hillheads was their fourth in the league this season and resulted in the club surprisingly calling time on Head Coach Matt Darlow’s short spell in charge.
Lawson was impressed with forward Aaron Davies’ contribution, but thought Richard Bentham’s absence from the line-up didn’t help the Hawks’ cause.
“Bentham brings energy and skill to any team – he is without doubt one of this league’s standout players,” he said.
“They were definitely missing him in their line-up offensively. I don’t think that would’ve changed the result as I thought we dominated for 50 minutes of the game.
“Come into Whitley short-benched and you will not find any refuge.”
The Warriors’ early season form was in stark contrast to last year’s efforts which saw them finish second in the league.
The loss of influential players like Callum Queenan and Jamie Tinsley during the close season clearly had an impact, although Lawson believes Player/Coach David Longstaff’s leadership was always likely to spark a revival in their fortunes.
“Lobby brings a wealth of knowledge from his playing experience that is second to none,” Lawson said.
“He tries to make the players understand the systems we are playing – where they should be positionally, on and off the puck, and why during different game scenarios.
“I think above all though, it’s Lobby’s competitive mindset – he’ll not accept second rate effort from anyone in his line-up. Lobby and Dave (Holland) give 100 percent and they both demand the same from the squad.
“We are now gelling as a unit, and we have to rely on our fitness and attitude to grind and wear teams down.
“We can take points from any team, but with the quality of imports now in this league we cannot get complacent – they can capitalise on any mistakes.
“We have to play smart, gritty hockey to win – and we will do that.”
(Image permission: IceHockeyMedia)