RARE back-to-back defeats were suffered by Solihull Barons to hand rivals Whitley Warriors the NIHL North One (Moralee) Division title.
Sunday’s 4-2 loss at Hobs Moat Road to the newly crowned champions followed Saturday’s 6-3 reverse at Billingham Stars to complete a miserly weekend for the club.
Knowing that a win would hand them league glory, Whitley perhaps failed to adjust to the occasion and fell behind on 5.13 after an initial attempt by Solihull’s Tom Soar was pushed into the path of Rich Slater to finish during a powerplay.
The Warriors dug deep to stand firm during a couple of periods spent with a numerical disadvantage, emerging from this spell to level on 21 minutes through Dean Holland.
Three minutes later, Solihull went back in front when Paul Stanley tapped home from close range after 24 minutes and 13 seconds, though this advantage was quickly cancelled out by a second equaliser from Callum Watson (26.55).
With the scores level heading into the final period, the league-winning moment was provided by Adam Finlinson, who followed a solo run up the ice with a long-range effort that zoomed into the net (41.50).
A chance to throw a spanner in the works was wasted by Solihull with ten minutes to play, when Phil Mulcahy’s penalty shot was turned wide by Richie Lawson.
The save prompted the Warriors to seal the points and the title when Rolands Grittans beat Sam Hewitt during a powerplay at 51.48.
In Saturday’s defeat at Billingham Forum Ice Arena, the hosts opened the scoring through James Hellens’ 6.28 strike, followed by a second from Tomas Rubes at 15.42 to round off the period.
While Henry Adams rescued a goal for the visitors (23.06), a quickfire brace by Billingham’s Callum Wilkinson (27.01 and 27.11) immediately put the Barons on the back foot.
Two goals in the space of four minutes from Soar (34.06 and 37.50) brought the visitors back into contention heading into the third and final period, though Rubes (55.26) and Chris Sykes (57.08) extinguished these hopes towards the culmination of the encounter.
Remaining third, the Barons are on the road at sixth-placed Blackburn Hawks on Saturday evening (6pm), before welcoming basement boys Nottingham Lions on Sunday for the final home game of the season (5.30pm).