Weekend Report: All About The Third For Stars
ULTIMATE WINDOWS sponsored Billingham Stars experienced contrasting third period fortunes in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 over the weekend, losing out to Hull Pirates on Saturday but then blowing away The Dragons with a six-goal blast on Sunday.
Billingham went into Saturday’s home game at the Forum missing several experienced players, especially at the back. Hull had to do without star forward Matty Davies and their suspended Player/Coach Jason Hewitt, the Pirates with a stand-in Coach on the bench to ensure the game went ahead. The visitors were quick off the mark, Bobby Chamberlain potting home a rebound over prone netminder James Flavell with just under four minutes gone. The Stars were handed an opportunity to respond two minutes later when Cain Taylor was called for interference, and their special play unit came good almost immediately as Artūrs Ozols lifted his blue line effort past Pirates goaltender Zack Brown straight from the face off. The teams traded penalties and chances were hard to come by until the 15th minute when James Moss got in close to the near post and had a few chops at the loose puck, Chamberlain with the initial attempt to drag Moss off his keeper, the resulting melee earning Chris Wilcox a ten-minute misconduct penalty. There was time left for a Matthew Campbell bullet from the point, but Brown was equal to it and the teams went in at the break on level terms.
The Pirates started the second at pace and nudged ahead in the 21st minute when James Archer released Lee Bonner with a neat backhand, Bonner making no mistake on the break. Again Billingham responded quickly, Callum Davies tipping in a Chris Sykes cross-ice pass to even the game. Davies almost pushed the home side in front when he had two bites of the cherry at the near post in the 25th minute, then seconds later James Hellens almost fooled Brown with a clever shot from the point. Hull continued to threaten however, Flavell with a point-blank stop from Bonner on the rebound on the 27-minute mark. It was Bonner who made the visitors’ third in the 31st minute as the Stars defence allowed him to circle and find Wilcox who fed James Archer who found the top shelf. The hosts could have gone in level once more when Michael Bowman broke out with Sykes in the 35th minute but the Player/Coach chose to shoot instead of laying on the pass, Brown able to deal with the danger easily enough at his near post.
Billingham upped their game at the start of the third as they fought to get back into the game, Bowman with a shot off Brown’s mask in the 44th minute. Three minutes later Sykes got around his defenceman and went for the top corner but Brown managed to get a piece of it with his glove and tip it to safety. They finally got the goal they had worked so hard for in the 54th minute – with Bonner sitting out a tripping penalty, Michael Elder took his time and picked his spot with Brown well screened. After taking much of the period to get back into the game, the home side then promptly threw it away as Hull scored two quick goals through Josh Gent and Bonner to break Stars’ hearts, the first a tap-in at the near post followed by a three-on-one break finished coolly by Bonner for 3-5. Visibly deflated, Billingham conceded again in the 58th minute as Gent circled before picking out the top corner. The hosts got a consolation when Ozols potted in his second goal on the rebound from an initial Elder shot with 40 seconds to go, but there was insufficient time left to trouble the Pirates who left with both points.
Man-of-the-Match for the Stars was Artūrs Ozols.
Artūrs Ozols 2+1; Michael Elder 1+2; Callum Davies 1+0; Chris Sykes 0+1; Darren Stattersfield 0+1
SOG: James Flavell 32 (8 / 11 / 13)
Lee Bonner 2+1; Josh Gent 2+0; James Archer 1+2; Bobby Chamberlain 1+1; Sam Towner 0+3; Lee Haywood 0+2; Jordan Fisher 0+1; Chris Wilcox 0+1
SOG: Zack Brown 35 (10 / 12 / 13)
Stars Media Team spoke to Director of Coaching Terry Ward and Pirates suspended Player/Coach Jason Hewitt post-game. Click here to listen to what they had to say.
Billingham travelled to North Wales on Sunday with just 12 skaters as four more players had to drop out from the side that iced against the Pirates. The Stars handed a senior debut to Ethan Hehir and were forced to roll with two makeshift lines for the majority of the game. After a hard match the previous evening and with so few skaters, the Teessiders looked tired in the first session. Unfamiliar lines led to some wayward passing but regardless it was still Billingham who looked the more likely to score in the opening exchanges. Ozols went just wide within the first minute and Sykes dinked one in just before the five-minute mark, only to see his effort kicked away by Dragons netminder Graeme Bird. The visitors opened their account in the sixth minute, Darren Stattersfield releasing Sykes after Billingham had broken up a Dragons counterattack, the Stars top scorer making no mistake. The Dragons never looked out of the game and equalised in the tenth minute, James Parsons hitting the roof of the net after a defensive error. The Stars should have been back in front in the 13th minute but the puck bobbled over Deniss Baškatovs stick as the net gaped open in front of him. Billingham continued to labour to the buzzer and a level score line at the break was a fair reflection of the session.
There were missed chances for both sides at the start of the middle period as first Parsons fanned on an easy tap-in at the back stick in the 24th minute, then seconds later at the other end Bowman missed an open goal after a three-man breakout. It was Parsons again guilty of the miss on a short-handed break in the 26th minute, an error he was made to pay for seconds later as Elder put away a rebound to edge the Stars ahead once more. Just as the teams were trading missed opportunities, they also traded goals as two minutes later the Billingham defence stood too far off Chris Jones who squared the game with a nice finish. In the 33rd minute Flavell denied Ross Kennedy at the far post then two minutes later Sykes fooled the last defenceman to give himself space to fire past Bird. Once again the home side responded quickly, Jordan Bannon backhanding low past Flavell from a face off in the 37th minute to ensure the teams went in level again at the break.
A slashing penalty given late in the second on Craig Lutkevitch meant the Stars started the final session on the power play. They punished the transgression with just 26 seconds on the clock when Ozols blasted from the blue line and Bird could not hold on, he spilled the puck to the lurking Elder who lifted home. It was Sykes who put some daylight between the teams in the 43rd minute, Ozols fed him the puck and he waited until Bird had committed before rounding him. The Dragons tried to respond are were helped by a couple of calls against their visitors as first Baškatovs and then Stattersfield found themselves warming the penalty bench. The closest they came to a power play goal however was when Player/Coach Mickaël Brodin found himself alone in front for the attempted tip-in, but Flavell got down quickly to pad the shot away. The home side did pull one back in the 50th minute when Billingham lost the puck on their own blue line and it fell back to Simon Furnival who backhanded home in his first game back for The Dragons after some time away from the sport. The Stars slammed the door shut on any hopes of a comeback quickly however, Sykes feeding Elder just a minute later, the Stars captain collecting one-handed before switching to his backhand to fire high past Bird. Indiscipline cost the hosts dear as Bannon incurred a cross checking penalty just before the 54-minute mark, and as Flavell left the ice for the extra skater Brodin slashed at Bowman to put two men in the box and give the Stars a five-on-three power play. Billingham made it count in fine style as first Ozols unleashed his now trademark bomb from the blue line that went straight through Bird’s pads, then a minute later Ben Davison slapped home from just inside the point to make the game safe. From the face off Bannon collected a kneeing minor and then got himself an early shower with a ten-minute game misconduct for his choice of words to referee Roy Hamilton. With the clock winding down Ryan Jones became the second Dragon to depart early on a five plus game misconduct for boarding on Jack Emerson as the Star had to leave the ice looking groggy. Ending the game on the power play, Billingham’s young debutant Hehir had the final say in the last minute when he lifted the puck over Bird at the near post to score his first senior goal for the Stars, 4-9 the score at the buzzer.
Man-of-the-Match for Billingham was Chris Sykes.
Chris Jones 1+1; James Parsons 1+0; Jordan Bannon 1+0; Simon Furnival 1+0; Ross Kennedy 0+2; Mickaël Brodin 0+1; Brian Worrall 0+1
SOG: Graeme Bird 46 (11 / 14 / 21)
Chris Sykes 3+3; Michael Elder 3+2; Artūrs Ozols 1+2; Ben Davison 1+0; Ethan Hehir 1+0; Jack Emerson 0+2; Deniss Baškatovs 0+2; Darren Stattersfield 0+1
SOG: James Flavell 18 (6 / 7 / 5)
Speaking after Sunday’s win, the Stars’ Director of Coaching Terry Ward praised the way his side upped their game in the final session to get the win they so desperately needed:
“When we traded goals in the first two periods we thought it might be a shootout, but we had that power play at the start of the third and we knew we had to convert it and up our tempo. Credit to the coaches, our power play is on fire at the moment and we were able to capitalise on some indiscipline. But it was all about our tempo in the final period, just as Hull did to us last night, we upped our game.”
Billingham are in National Cup action next weekend as they travel to Blackburn Hawks on Saturday 18th November (face off 5.45pm) followed by the visit of Solway Sharks to the Forum on Sunday 19th November (face off 6.30pm).
Whitley Warriors 2 Nottingham Lions 3
Billingham Stars 4 Hull Pirates 6
Solway Sharks 2 Sheffield Steeldogs 3 (after overtime)
The Dragons 4 Billingham Stars 9
Blackburn Hawks 1 Sheffield Steeldogs 2 (after overtime)
Nottingham Lions 1 Solway Sharks 9
Solihull Barons 5 Whitley Warriors 2
Images Pirates: Linda Crabtree
Images Dragons: Pete Sheffield