Cup Weekend Review: Stars v Hawks & Sharks
ULTIMATE WINDOWS sponsored Billingham Stars lost out by the odd goal in both of their opening National Cup group stage games this weekend but gained a point for the overtime loss to Solway Sharks at the Forum on Sunday.
On Saturday the Stars were back in Blackburn and got away the first shot in anger through James Moss with only 20 seconds played. The Hawks found themselves a man down after three minutes when Lee Pollitt went to the box for roughing, Billingham almost punishing the error a minute later when netminder Stuart Ashton had to scoop a Richie Thornton bullet from the point. Michael Elder hit the post in the ninth minute, Ashton alive to the subsequent danger to cover the backhanded rebound effort. Despite their industry, the Stars fell behind in the 13th minute when they left Rick Bentham free to shoot in front of the net. A minute later Chris Sykes cleverly laid back the puck for Michael Bowman, but his blast was well saved. With three minutes remaining Tom Parkinson had a golden opportunity to fire the home side two ahead but with the goal at his mercy he managed to shoot over the bar.
Two minutes into the middle session the visitors pulled themselves level in fine style. With Callum Pattison sitting out a cross checking call, Sykes tricked his way past the last defenceman and shot high past Ashton’s glove for a well-taken shorthanded goal. A few seconds remaining on the penalty, an Ollie Lomax effort came off Billingham netminder Mark Watson’s arm. In the 25th minute Callum Davies put one just past the near post. Blackburn collected and dumped into the Stars defensive zone – there appeared to be little danger but a miscalculation at the back let in Bentham who took his chance and fired into the bottom corner to put the Hawks noses back in front. Watson flashed the glove to deny Jozef Ištocy in the 30th minute before Ben Davison’s point shot at the other end could have rebounded a little more kindly to the lurking forwards, but Ashton smothered before anyone could react. A five-on-three situation was played off comfortably by Billingham, but they found themselves further behind in the 37th minute when a Luke Boothroyd punt across the net was diverted past Watson by his defenceman’s leg.
The Stars took the game to their hosts at the start of the final session, Ashton gloving two attempts in quick succession in the 46th minute from Artūrs Ozols and Elder which prompted Hawks Player/Coach Steven Duncombe to call a timeout. Sykes went close in the 49th minute, then a minute later Kyle Haslam did the same at the other end. Billingham pressed further and got a late power play opportunity when Bentham was called for cross checking, but their best chance was dived on by Ashton to deny Baškatovs. With two minutes to go, Darren Stattersfield came up with a great defensive play to get the Stars out of trouble at the back, his poke finding Moss who in turn fed Sykes who put it into the roof of Ashton’s net to give the visitors a glimmer of hope. Despite pulling Watson Billingham could not find a way through and the match closed out 3-2 once again in a repeat of last week’s League score line.
Man-of-the-Match for the Stars was Michael Bowman.
Rick Bentham 2+0; Luke Boothroyd 1+0; James Riddoch 0+1
SOG: Stuart Ashton 22 (9 / 7 / 6)
Chris Sykes 2+0; James Moss 0+1
SOG: Mark Watson 27 (10 / 8 / 9)
On Sunday Billingham welcomed treble-winners Solway Sharks to the Forum. It was the home side who dominated the early exchanges, Sharks netminder Calum Hepburn with a big glove save to deny Sykes after only a minute played. A minute later and Bowman was left free in front of the net to knock the puck towards goal out of the air but Hepburn was alive to the danger. The Stars eventually got themselves in front in the third minute, Baškatovs poking the puck underneath Hepburn after a scramble in front of the net. Billingham put on the penalty kill by a delay the game call against Bowman, Watson stood up well to a point shot from Czech import Marek Charvat in the sixth minute. In the 12th minute Stuart Kerr was sent to the sinbin for hooking and an excellent power play from the hosts was rewarded with less than half a minute left on the penalty when Davies found the top corner with a laser of a shot for 2-0.
The Stars still in the ascendancy, it was 3-0 in the 26th minute when Baškatovs got the break on the blue line, spun away from his defenceman and took it in close before ripping a shot past Hepburn. Their joy was short-lived, Steven Moore putting away a loose rebound just seconds later to narrow the gap back to two. Moss almost got the better of Hepburn in the 29th minute with a cheeky divert towards the net, then Ozols tested the tall goaltender with a quick shot two minutes later. Elder was released as the high man in the 35th minute, but Hepburn watched his man and batted away the shot comfortably. The teams went into the dressing rooms separated by just one goal when Iain Bowie tipped in a Vaclav Kolarik shot from the blue line on 37 minutes.
Buoyed by goal, the Sharks came out hungry and tied the game with just under two minutes of the third period gone, Ross Murray put through by Joe Coulter to fire past Watson. Two minutes later Sykes broke from his man and slid the puck across to Elder but he fired over. On the power play, Thornton almost squeezed an effort past Hepburn on his stick side in the 44th minute. Bowman was handed a clear opportunity in the 48th minute by Baškatovs but he put his effort straight at Hepburn. Moss was guilty of the same offence in the 58th minute when he was fed by Davies from behind the net, the match ending 3-3 and into three-on-three sudden death overtime. It was Solway who took two points when Bowie capitalised on a blue line error and put it over Watson’s shoulder with just under two minutes of the available five gone, 3-4 the final score after a seesaw of a game.
Man-of-the-Match for the Stars was Deniss Baškatovs.
Deniss Baškatovs 2+0; Callum Davies 1+0; Artūrs Ozols 0+1; James Moss 0+1; Richie Thornton 0+1; Darren Stattersfield 0+1
SOG: Mark Watson 33 (10 / 10 / 12 / 1)
Iain Bowie 2+1; Steven Moore 1+0; Ross Murray 1+0; Joe Coulter 0+1; Vaclav Kolarik 0+1; Connor Henderson 0+1
SOG: Calum Hepburn 35 (9 / 12 / 14 / 0)
Billingham Stars TV was on hand to get the post-game reaction:
- Bench Coach Garry Dowd
- Man-of-the-Match Deniss Baškatovs
- Sharks Head Coach Martin Grubb
- Sharks Assistant Captain Ross Murray
The Stars are still in National Cup action next weekend when they travel to Dumfries to take on Solway Sharks on Saturday 16th September, face off 7pm.
Hull Pirates 6 Solihull Barons 7 (after OT)
Solway Sharks 3 Whitley Warriors 1
Whitley Warriors 2 Blackburn Hawks 3 (after OT)
The Dragons 4 Solihull Barons 3
Nottingham Lions 3 Hull Pirates 5
National Cup Group A:
Blackburn Hawks 3 Billingham Stars 2
Billingham Stars 3 Solway Sharks 4 (after OT)
All images: Linda Crabtree