The Tomahawks travelled to Bradford without Jack Davies, who was serving the second game of his suspension following his indiscretion at Telford. They were up against what looks on paper, a very good side in Bradford, who have signed some of the best players in the North of England during the close season. The first meeting between the sides on the opening day of the season was awarded to Whitley 5-0 as Bradford were unable to get a side together at the time, but since then they have remained unbeaten, and up until time of writing, are the only side to have taken a point off league leaders Coventry.
The first period got under way, with Whitley’s Sean Bamling testing Bradford’s netminder Joe Blowers with a shot from halfway. There weren’t many chances at either end in the opening minutes, with some of the Tomahawks players seeming strangely subdued. The deadlock was eventually broken at 9.07 when Bradford’s Joel Marrow was allowed to skate unchallenged behind Mark Turnbulls net, and when he passed the puck from below the goal line, it came off a defenders skate and ricocheted passed the unfortunate keeper. Turnbull was called into action seconds later, when he made a great glove save from a Dec Balmer slapshot, to keep the score at 1-0 at the end of the first period.
The Whitley net minder was in action again at the start of the second period, again thwarting Balmer with a fine save, before Whitley came close at the other end, Blowers saving from defender Callum Read. However, the Tomahawks went further behind at 17.05, when after a sustained amount of pressure on the Bradford net, the puck was cleared around the boards and when they failed to keep it in at the blue line, Myles Dacres raced away and beat the advancing Turnbull with a low shot to make it 2-0. Whitley came back at Bradford with 2 slapshots in quick succession from Read and Ben Richards bringing good saves from Blowers. The home side increased their lead at 24.47 after a mad scramble in front of the Whitley net, the puck eventually falling on the stick of Marrow and he back-handed it into the net to give the home side a seemingly unassailable 3-0 lead.
Whitley were kept in the game by Turnbull only moments later, when he made a fantastic glove save from Balmer, after the former Kingston defender had a breakaway opportunity, and then the same player had a shot from the point saved by the Whitley keeper. Whitley got themselves back into the game right at the end of the period when Richards shot was saved by Blowers, but captain Dale Sharp, who had been the visitors best player, was on hand to net the rebound.
The goal at the end of the 2nd period seemed to give the Tomahawks some much needed confidence, and they started the third period looking like a different side. At 32.44 they reduced the deficit to 1 goal when Reads pass found Kate Ord on the left side, and when she passed inside to Sharp he made no mistake, firing high past Blowers. The Bradford goal was under siege at this point and Blowers did well to stop a rocket from Harry Harley tying the game. Incredibly Whitley levelled the scores at 40.07 with one of the best goals of the season. Bradford lost possession of the puck inside Whitley’s blue line and when Ord passed the puck up the middle of the ice it became a foot race between the chasing Richards and the advancing Blowers. The net minder was caught in two minds whether to come for it or not, and his slight delay gave Richards the advantage when the two players dived for the puck. The Whitley forward managed to get his stick to the puck first and lifted it over the Bradford keeper to score an amazing goal and complete a remarkable turnaround in the game. With the game now tied at 3-3 and the Tomahawks on top, there seemed there could only be 1 winner with 5 minutes still remaining. Despite more pressure from Whitley in the closing stages, the game had one more twist to it. With 7 seconds remaining and a draw seemingly inevitable, Turnbull saved a late Bradford effort, resulting in a face off in front of the Whitley net. When the puck was dropped, and with the clock still stopped, a mad scramble resulted in Marrow getting a stick on it and it trickled past the unsighted Turnbull. The time keeper then realising he hadn`t started the clock, started and stopped it straight away, officially timing the goal at 44.55. The goal completed Marrows hat-trick, well deserved after a great display, but was cruel luck on a brave Whitley side who looked dead and buried when 3-0 down but who then fought back and deserved at least a point from the game.
Spirit of the Game; # 66 Dale Sharp
Goals; Dale Sharp 2+1
Ben Richards 1+1
Kate Ord 0+2
PIMs; Bradford 2, Whitley 2
Shots Faced; Mark Turnbull ( Whitley )32
Joe Blowers ( Bradford ) 33