Match Report: Stars 3 Tigers 4
ULTIMATE WINDOWS sponsored Billingham Stars solved their start issues against Telford Tigers in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 at the Forum on Saturday evening, but eventually succumbed by the odd goal in seven to extend their losing streak.
A small but talented bench travelled from Shropshire for this the first competitive encounter between the two sides this season, Tigers bolstered by the midweek signing of Warren Tait but without the suspended Jonathan Weaver. It was the visitors who got away the first shot in anger with under two minutes gone, Player/Coach Tom Watkins shooting from the right but into the glove of Billingham netminder Mark Watson. The Stars looked markedly brighter than in the opening exchanges of their games last weekend, only a last-gasp stick check from Danny Rose preventing Michael Elder from getting a shot on Tigers netminder Sam Hewitt in the third minute. The hosts were swarming ominously however, and Chris Sykes put them ahead a minute later when he slotted under Hewitt for the opener. Billingham assumed control and put Telford on the back foot but without creating quality chances to extend the lead until the 15th minute when Deniss Baškatovs found himself in a great position out front, Hewitt stretching the glove to deny him. Seconds later it was 2-0 however as Elder let fly with a precision shot across the net and into the top corner. Eager to get something back before the interval, Tigers’ Adam Taylor had two chances in quick succession in the 18th minute, the first sliding just wide and the second punched away by Watson. Joe Miller saw his effort drift just past the near post as the seconds ticked towards the buzzer, but the last opportunity fell to the home side as Ozols’ attempted tip was just off target.
The Stars expected a response from their visitors, and it came in the 23rd minute with Scott Ward sitting in the sinbin, Corey Goodison slapping home from the blue line. Play was broken in the run-up to the halfway point of the game as both sides picked up penalties, with limited chances in front of goal. Tom Keeley troubled Hewitt in the 29th minute when he coasted in from the neutral zone, then seconds later play switched to the other end and Tom Watkins was denied by Watson’s pad from a face off in the Billingham defensive zone. In the 33rd minute Elder put one just wide of the post after being released by Ozols, then two minutes later Watson robbed Miller with a point-blank glove save, the Telford forward having had two bites of the cherry to score. Tigers had the game level with just over a minute remaining in the session when Dale White hit the top corner.
The final period started promisingly for the hosts as Ozols had a speculative shot kicked away within the opening few seconds, then in the 44th minute Sykes almost surprised Hewitt with a shot on the spin. The sucker punch was delivered a minute later when high man Miller collected and fed Jason Silverthorn, the Canadian lifting the puck over Watson to put Telford ahead for the first time in the game. The Stars response was immediate, Michael Bowman getting a fortunate bounce and backhanding past Hewitt to tie things up once more. Sniffing a chance of victory, Sykes stung Hewitt’s glove in the 48th minute then from the face off Jack Davies’ quick wrist shot was straight at the keeper. The Tigers were ultimately gifted the win however in the 51st minute as Billingham failed to pick up their men at the face off, Miller with time and space to pick his spot past Watson. The Stars didn’t give up, Baškatovs going close after spinning away from his man on the blue line in the 56th minute, then Elder and Keeley both saw efforts saved in the 58th minute. Billingham played much of the last 90 seconds without Watson in favour of an extra skater, but they could not force an equaliser and the match closed out 3-4.
Man-of-the-Match for the Stars was Deniss Baškatovs.
Michael Bowman 1+1; Chris Sykes 1+0; Michael Elder 1+0; Deniss Baškatovs 0+2; Artūrs Ozols 0+1; Ross Hanlon 0+1
SOG: Mark Watson 33 (7 / 13 / 13)
Corey Goodison 1+1; Dale White 1+1; Jason Silverthorn 1+1; Joe Miller 1+1; Rick Plant 0+1; Warren Tait 0+1
SOG: Sam Hewitt 27 (8 / 11 / 8)
Billingham Stars TV captured all the post-game analysis:
The Stars face a weekend on the road in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 next weekend with a trip to Sheffield Steeldogs on Saturday 7th October (face off 7.30pm) followed by a first visit of the season to Hull Pirates on Sunday 8th October (face off 5.30pm).
Billingham Stars 3 Telford Tigers 4
Solway Sharks 6 Nottingham Lions 2
Whitley Warriors 6 The Dragons 3
Hull Pirates 6 Solway Sharks 3
Telford Tigers 4 Solihull Barons 2
Nottingham Lions 1 Blackburn Hawks 3
All images as credited.