The Whitley Bay Islanders were back to their devastating best on Sunday in their latest rivalry game with the Durham Dragons. The two sides met just three weeks earlier with them sharing the spoils in an eight-goal thriller, but this time there would be no let-up in what was a strong performance by the Islanders as they put down a marker for their title aspirations this season.
Within the first 30 seconds of the puck dropping, the Islanders, who were the designated away team for this game, showed their intent when Liam Telfer flew down the right wing and got a shot on target after line mate Bobby Bradley had set him away.
However, that early momentum seemed to be put on hold when Bradley was given a penalty for High Sticks seconds later, giving an early powerplay opportunity to the Dragons. The Islanders were able to kill that off well and as the penalty ended Bradley charged straight out of the box and collected a long stretch pass on the Durham blue line. He impressively got his shot away despite being held back by a Dragons defenseman but couldn’t find the back of the net.
Liam Telfer was awarded Man-of-the Match and it was no surprise really, given how prominent he was in this game. He wound up a shot from out on the left wing with just four minutes on the clock but for the time being the game remained scoreless. It wasn’t just Whitley, or Telfer, that had chances to open the scoring. Durham had several of their own but came up against a goalie in Antony Markham who was having one of his best games since he played for the Warriors. Ginge as he is known by his teammatesproduced a smart kick save on three separate occasions early on to keep his side in it. But at 11:15 of the first period the Islanders finally got their breakthrough. Ben Buckley finishing a pass from Liam Brown to give the visitors the lead.
Durham used that as a wakeup call and went looking for an equaliser immediately. A couple of minutes after falling behind, James Udell flashed wide straight from a face off after an icing call on the Islanders had them pegged back in their own zone.
Back came the Islanders with a couple of chances to double their lead before the break. Liam Brown snatched at a shot from out on the left wing, pulling it wide of the net, then a minute later a fast-paced breakout saw Richard Crowe send a great pass to Paul Johnson, but the latter couldn’t connect.
Having rode that particular storm, back came Durham as they started to turn up the pressure on the Islanders goal. However, they were starting to find Markham in near unbeatable form as the Whitley netminder managed to stop four shots in a little over 30 seconds of play. There was a great first stop from Brad Armitage, then he had to react quickly to twist whilst prone on the deck to stop Mark Foster who was hoping to crash home the rebound, then a third shot came in from Ian Greenwood as Durham were queuingup to put the puck home. A fourth shot from the point was then gloved by the Ginger Ninja between the pipes to restore his sides one goal advantage.
Durham were then given a great opportunity to tie the game when they found themselves on a 5-on-3 powerplay, but it was the Islanders who came closest to scoring with a shorthandedmarker when Bobby Bradley closed in on goal,but his shot was saved by Davies. Durham responded a few seconds later and did actually beat Markham but the puck hit the post and came back out. Moments later Ian Spraggon had a shot saved by Ginge twice in ten seconds as following his initial effort the puck cycled back round to him only to find himself stonewalled for a second time.
With the Islanders back to four skaters the pressure had eased slightly, but with 20 seconds of the second penalty left to kill, James Udellshot from distance on the left wing to tie the game.
The Islanders came straight back at the start of the second period and never gave the Dragons time to settle. Ben Buckley had his shot from right on the doorstep saved, before Liam Brown had an effort stopped 30 seconds later.
Whitley didn’t have to wait long to re-take the lead though. At 22:48, Steven Stocks and Ross Tomlinson combined to set up Stephen Brown, whose shot from the left wing beat Davies to make it 2-1.
Durham would have to try to tie the game up again and nearly did so a couple of minutes later but another great save from Markham restored his side’s lead. It would be a crucial moment in the game as not long after that Liam Telfer swept home at the back post from the left wing after collecting a great pass from Bradley to make 3-1. And just 29 seconds later it would be four. Ross Trail collected a pass from Ben Buckley with his back to goal and somehow tipped it, over his own shoulder as he turned to deceive Davies in the Dragons net.
Towards the end of the middle session a rare Islanders powerplay saw Stu Tomlinson advance forward from the blue line, only to be hauled down by a Dragons defenseman. However, he was still able to play the puck while on the deck and swept home to make it 5-1. Davies was furious with the defending in front of him and you could sense the frustration starting to creep into the Dragons team by now. Indeed, it might very well have been 6-1 just a few seconds later when Telfer attempted to stab home at the back post but couldn’t direct his shot beyond Davies.
The third period started in much the same way as the previous one had ended and that was with the Islanders creating chance after chance. Bobby Bradley shot from the left-wing position forcing a good full length stop from Davies then just moments later the Islanders scored again. Liam Brown collected a pass from Craig Thompson straight from a faceoff and the speed of his snapshot beat Davies. The Islanders very nearly got a seventh seconds later and would have had it not been for another good save from Davies.
Durham still gave it a go though and with around twelve minutes left looked like they had created a chance to score. But as they entered the Islanders zone a great poke check by Stu Tomlinson cut the danger out immediately.
With just over ten minutes to go the Islanders scored twice in twelve seconds. David Cowey got the first when he fired top shelf over Davies’ left shoulder for 7-1, then Ross Trail poked a loose puck underneath Davies, when played through 1-on-1 by Liam Telfer, whose pass split the Dragons defense to make it 8-1.
There would be no further goals for either team but that didn’t mean the Islanders would stop creating good chances.
A rink-wide pass from the Islanders zone picked out Liam Brown on the left wing but he couldn’t apply the finish. He would receive a two-minutepenalty for roughing just seconds later and a ten minute misconduct which ended a frustrating game for him early.
Durham might even have cut the arrears with a couple of minutes to go but Markham who was putting on a goaltending masterclass slid to his right to stop a shot from distance. After making the save he looked behind him just to check the puck hadn’t crept through his body and gone in.
With thirteen seconds left the Islanders were still creating chances. Bobby Bradley had a chance to score at the end, but the puck just got away from him before he could fire home.
Liam Telfer got a deserved Man-of-the Match along with Ian Spraggon for the Dragons. However, a special mention should be made to both goaltenders, Craig Davies faced and stopped a number of shots and without him playing to the level he did the scoreline would have been even larger.
Antony Markham has always been a well-respected goalie, ever since he first wore the Maroon and Gold jersey of the Whitley Warriors, so a performance like that from him was nothing new. However, the sheer number of saves he made and the way he stopped them was extraordinary. It certainly brought back memories of the 1999 B&H Cup when he was named player of the month in the competition after staring against sides playing two levels above him. On this evidence Ginge could be playing for many more years to come.
Stu Tomlinson was another who deserves a mention playing alongside Kevin Bucas certainly seemed to give him confidence and he put in a great performance on the top defensive pairing.
A great performance from start to finish from the Islanders, and the scary thing about this for their opponents? Simon Leach was missing from the line-up. Imagine what this team will be like when he returns.
22 Wafer – 25 Bradley – 3 Telfer
13 Buckley – 88 Thompson – 44 L. Brown
23 S. Brown – 73 Cowey – 19 Johnson
71 S. Tomlinson – 36 Bucas
17 R. Tomlinson – 16 Stocks
55 Laidler – 32 Willis