The Braves made the long journey south to Nottingham without Kate Ord, Jack Davies, out with a hand injury and also without Daniel Spedding who received a 3 game ban for his intent to head butt in last weeks game between these two sides. Nottingham started with Thomas Hovell between the pipes, taking over from last weeks starting keeper Sam Gospel.
The game was only 5 mins old before the first nasty challenge, Nottingham’s Cameron Good receiving a 2 minute penalty for boarding. Any thoughts that an under strength Whitley team were here just to make up the numbers were quickly dispelled when they went close through Harry Harley, Amy Campbell and Andrew Pearson. Christian Johnson was next to test Hovell, picking the puck up on halfway, he skated to the corner before cutting along the blue line and tried to find the near top corner of the net, however, Hovell had his post covered and the loose puck was cleared. The Braves were taking the game to Nottingham, and Good took a delay of game penalty under all the pressure which lead to the visitors taking the lead. Dean Kerr found Luke Shanks with a pass out of defence and the ex Newcastle player did well with some good work in the corner waiting for help to arrive, before finding Callum Clark, who with his back to goal spun and hit a backhander which found the 5 hole to give Whitley the lead at 18.22.
That was the only goal of a first period dominated by The Braves, with Nottingham struggling to handle the pace of visitors.
The 2nd period saw the home side come back into the game, and Joe Harley in the Whitley net had to make smart saves from Joe Steeples and Daniel Hazeldine to preserve his sides lead, but Whitley were giving as good as they were getting, with Harley and Johnson both going close at the other end. The home side did draw level at 30.00 with Luke Shanks in the penalty box after a dubious boarding call. After the call, at least 2 Nottingham players were seen to be throwing punches at the Whitley player which the Latvian referee ignored, and from the resulting power-play Kurtis Lowe beat Harley with a rising shot from the high slot area to make it 1-1. This seemed to give the home side a big lift and they put the visitors under intense pressure as they went looking for the go ahead goal. That goal arrived at 37.47 when 2 Whitley defenders lost the puck in their feet, allowing Matthew Cooke to skate in and beat Harley with a low shot to make it 2-1 to the home side. The interval couldn’t come quick enough for Whitley who looked tired after a 4 hour bus journey.
Whatever coach Salem said to his team during the 15 minute break certainly had the desired affect as The Braves came out for the 3rd period all guns blazing. First, Callum Read went close with a shot from the point, then Harley and Shanks had a 2 on 1 break, Harleys effort being blocked and then Hovell pulling off a stunning save to block Shanks` follow up shot. Nottingham were unlucky not to extend their lead, against the run of play, when Ollie Betteridge cut in from the left half boards and cannoned a shot off the right hand post. The visitors deservedly got back on level terms with a brilliant goal at 49.49, when Johnson found Shanks with a pass down the right wing and when he laid it off inside, Harry Harley took it around Hovell and stuck it in the empty net to tie the game at 2-2. The Braves were getting stronger by the minute, and took the lead again at 53.51 when Reads long pass out of defence to Harley presented them with a 2 on 1 break with Shanks up with Harley. With the Nottingham defender expecting Harley to pass to Shanks, he used him as a decoy until he was close enough to unleash a wrist shot that flew past the stunned Hovell in the home net. The goal was no more than the Braves deserved after a fantastic 3rd period display, but they still had Joe Harley to thank for preserving their lead with an incredible toe save from Hazeldine, who had the whole goal at his mercy in the dying seconds. A fantastic team display, achieved with a short bench, and a special mention to the defence, who rarely grab the headlines, but every one of them played out of their skins and were rewarded with a great victory.
Spirit of the Game #1 Joe Harley
Goals; Harry Harley 2+0, Callum Clark 1+0, Luke Shanks 0+2, Christian Johnson 0+1, Dean Kerr 0+1, Callum Read 0+1.
PIM`s Nottingham 8, Whitley 6.
Shots Faced; Hovell ( Nottingham ) 21, Harley ( Whitley )38