Weekend Report: Double Defeat Leaves Stars Ninth
ULTIMATE WINDOWS sponsored Billingham Stars slumped to ninth in the table after a double defeat weekend in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1, losing out to Hull Pirates on the road on Saturday before giving up a two-goal lead to fall to Blackburn Hawks in front of the Forum faithful on Sunday.
On Saturday Billingham travelled to in-form Hull with less than three lines, missing Scott Ward, Andy Finn, Richie Thornton, Jack Emerson, Dave Thomas, Ross Hanlon, Tom Keeley and Darren Stattersfield from the line-up. The visitors shocked the home side however when they raced into a two-goal lead with just under six minutes played, top scorer Chris Sykes on the mark twice and prompting some harsh words on the Pirates bench. It took them until the tenth minute to get one back, Bobby Chamberlain hitting home with the suspicion that the net had become dislodged. The sense of injustice still burning, Hull equalised two minutes later through Player/Coach Jason Hewitt and then moved ahead in the 14th minute when Jamie Chilcott found the back of the net. With a little over a minute to play on the period, the hosts put daylight between themselves and their guests with another controversial goal, Thomas Stubley making it 4-2 with the Stars looking for an offside call on the play.
The Pirates put paid to any hopes of a Billingham fightback with a sucker-punch early in the second period, Chamberlain with his second of the game in the 21st minute. The Stars made the home side work hard for it though, James Flavell in the away net putting in a stellar performance to keep Hull at bay. He could do little about the Pirates’ sixth, Aaron Lyon putting the puck away at the game’s midpoint to make it 6-2.
The final stanza saw more action for Flavell as Billingham continued to make life hard for second-placed Hull. Eventually the tired legs started to show and the Pirates bagged a seventh through Josh Gent in the 52nd minute. Not giving up the fight, the Stars were eventually rewarded for a hardworking performance with a well-taken goal by James Moss a minute later. An altercation between Jack Davies and Lyon just before the 55-minute mark put the hosts on the power play, and they rounded out the scoring less than a minute into the man advantage when defenceman Jonathan Kirk made it 8-3.
Man-of-the-Match for the Stars was Chris Sykes.
Bobby Chamberlain 2+0; Jason Hewitt 1+3; Aaron Lyon 1+1; Jamie Chilcott 1+1; Josh Gent 1+1; Thomas Stubley 1+0; Jonathan Kirk 1+0; Matty Davies 0+4; Lee Haywood 0+1; Cain Taylor 0+1; Lee Bonner 0+1
SOG: Ashley Smith 20 (7 / 8 / 5)
Chris Sykes 2+0; James Moss 1+0; Michael Elder 0+1; Callum Davies 0+1; Deniss Baškatovs 0+1
SOG: James Flavell 64 (24 / 18 / 22)
Back at the Forum on Sunday the Stars were able to add three more bodies to the squad as Thornton, Emerson and Ward returned. An early penalty against youngster Kieran Brown put Billingham on the power play, Deniss Baškatovs almost making it count when he stung the glove of Hawks netminder Stuart Ashton with just over a minute played. The man advantage was lost a minute later when Player/Coach Michael Bowman was sent to the sinbin on a hooking call, and then in the third minute Ben Davison tapped away a loose glove and was called for interference to put Blackburn on the power play. Returning to the ice when his penalty expired, Bowman collected on his own blue line and broke away with just returning import Kim Miettinen back as cover, Miettinen gave Bowman too much time to pick his spot which he duly did under the arm of Ashton for a short-handed goal in the fourth minute. A flurry of chances around the halfway point of the session should have seen the home side move further ahead, but fate and bad shot selection conspired to deny Michael Elder, Baškatovs and finally Moss who saw his effort come off Ashton’s mask with just under 12 minutes played. A high sticks call against Matthew Campbell put Billingham on the penalty kill in the 14th minute and Blackburn began to threaten, Flavell denying James Neil with the pad. Richard Bentham looked to tip past Flavell in the 16th minute but the netminder stopped the puck dead before Bentham could react. Brown was seeing a lot of ice time and almost equalised twice in the dying minutes of the period, Flavell on his toes to deny the hot prospect.
The Stars started the second session brightly, Artūrs Ozols seeing his effort gloved by Ashton in the 23rd minute. Play still in the offensive zone, Sykes set up Elder from behind the net for the one-timer but Ashton was equal to it. Billingham were not to be denied however and just before the 25-minute mark Bowman put the puck into the roof of Ashton’s net on the backhand to double the hosts’ advantage. The Stars had the puck in the net again through Baškatovs half a minute later on a delayed penalty against Lee Pollitt but controversially referee Andrew Miller decided that a Blackburn player had the puck in his control and blew the whistle a fraction of a second before the puck went in the net. On the penalty kill in the 27th minute, Lewis Baldwin’s looped clearance was mishandled by Flavell who could only watch in agony as the puck slipped from his grasp and bobbled over the line. The unfortunate error seemed to swing the momentum to the visitors and they equalised in controversial fashion two minutes later, Brown knocking the puck in from the floor but not given initially by the goal judge or the referee. After consulting his linesman it was decided that the puck had crossed the line before the net had come off its moorings and should stand. Billingham tried to get themselves back in front with chances in quick succession for Ozols in the 30th minute, and then Ashton denied Jack Davies with a kick save in the 35th minute. Again the home side thought they had scored in the 37th minute, and indeed the ‘goal’ was initially given by Miller, however a coincidental whistle for offside was subsequently adjudged to have been blown before the puck went in the net, despite the Stars protestations that there was no offside and the ‘goal’ should have stood. From the restart Josh Nertney and Lee Pollitt dropped the gloves and incurred double minors each for fighting.
A disputed tripping call against Sykes on Brown in the 42nd minute was capitalised on a minute later when Bentham found Brown from behind the net for the one-timer past Flavell. Now the home side’s turn to get back into the game, they were handed their own power play opportunity in the 44th minute when Bentham incurred a tripping call and again the offence was punished, Sykes firing past Ashton straight from a face off in the 45th minute before the goaltender had a chance to move. Parity lasted half a minute as play switched immediately to the other end, a touch of fortune about Jozef Ištocy’s goal as it hit the post and rebounded into the net off Flavell’s back. Back on the penalty kill, Billingham found themselves further behind in the 50th minute when Aaron Davies hit home through Flavell’s pads with a goal that seemed to knock the fight out of the hosts. Playing short-benched the previous evening was starting to take its toll and the Teessiders could not find a way back into the match despite a late flurry of chances with Flavell pulled for the extra skater, 3-5 the final score.
Man-of-the-Match for Billingham was Jack Davies.
Michael Bowman 2+0; Chris Sykes 1+0; Artūrs Ozols 0+1; James Moss 0+1; Jack Davies 0+1
SOG: James Flavell 55 (22 / 10 / 23)
Kieran Brown 2+1; Lewis Baldwin 1+1; Aaron Davies 0+1; Jozef Ištocy 1+0; Richard Bentham 0+2; Luke Boothroyd 0+1; James Royds 0+1; James Neil 0+1; Ollie Lomax 0+1
SOG: Stuart Ashton 39 (6 / 20 / 13)
Billingham Stars TV was on hand to catch some post-game reaction:
It’s the Tyne-Tees derby in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 next Sunday 10th December as the Stars travel to Hillheads to take on Whitley Warriors, face off 5pm.
Nottingham Lions 1 Solihull Barons 8
Hull Pirates 8 Billingham Stars 3
Whitley Warriors 2 Sheffield Steeldogs 4
Solihull Barons 2 Solway Sharks 3
Billingham Stars 3 Blackburn Hawks 5
Nottingham Lions 8 The Dragons 1
National Cup Group A:
Solway Sharks 3 Blackburn Hawks 4
All images: Tony Burgum Photography