Weekend Report 20th-21st October
‘CHALK AND CHEESE’ summed up Ultimate Windows sponsored Billingham Stars weekend as they suffered two very different defeats, an insipid display against Solway Sharks in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 followed by a surprisingly gritty performance with a very short bench against Hull Pirates in the North Cup.
Arriving late in Dumfries on Saturday and missing key players in Cal Davies, Jack Davies, Richie Thornton and Cain Taylor, Billingham struggled to get into the game from the off and found themselves a goal behind on 4.28 when Steven Moore broke with Peter Gápa in support, Moore sliding his pass across the net for Gápa to one-time past James Flavell in the Stars net. The visitors hit their stride perhaps for the only time in the game in the 14th minute, a great spell of pressure rewarded when James Moss found Edgar Protčenko at the back door for the tap into the bottom corner.
Starting the second as they had the first, Solway got the go-ahead goal on 23.18, Gápa’s quick-fire pass from behind the net slotted home by Iain Bowie. Both sides toiled to find openings as the period flowed from end-to-end, the Stars failing with the few that came their way. Towards the end of the session the Sharks began to ramp up the pressure again and they doubled their lead with 1.18 remaining, Cale Tanaka finding the unmarked Moore on the far post for the simplest of tap-ins.
Far from coming at their hosts in the final stanza, Billingham sat back and allowed Solway possession time, relying on Flavell to keep them in the game with saves from Gápa, Scott Henderson and Richard Bentham. An unsavoury challenge from Ross Murray put Protčenko down injured, but on the resulting power play an error in the offensive zone gifted the puck to Moore for the breakaway, Tanaka bundling the puck and Flavell over the line to make the game safe. Matthew Campbell exacted his own sort of retribution on Murray in the 52nd minute, a five-minute major penalty for fighting putting the Stars on the back foot once again. The Sharks took full advantage, Scott Henderson firing straight through Flavell on 54.29 to complete what was a comfortable win against a lacklustre Billingham outfit.
Man-of-the-Match for Billingham was Edgar Protčenko.
Steven Moore 1+2; Iain Bowie 1+1; Cale Tanaka 1+1; Peter Gápa 1+1; Scott Henderson 1+0; Stuart Kerr 0+1; Joe Coulter 0+1; Lewis Baldwin 0+1
SOG: Kyle Johnston 26 (10 / 4 / 12)
Edgar Protčenko 1+0; James Moss 0+1; Chris Sykes 0+1
SOG: James Flavell 46 (11 / 13 / 22)
Already short, the Solway game resulted in Protčenko and Michael Bowman added to the growing injury list. Andy Finn was unavailable, however Richie Thornton was able to return to bolster a threadbare squad. Against a talented Hull bench that had been racking up the goals for fun, the Stars looked to be in for a long night, however they surprised the Forum faithful and their illustrious visitors by taking the game to the Pirates in the first session and battling out a goalless first twenty.
It got better for Billingham after the restart as Moss collected a fortunate bounce off the boards and unleashed a bullet into the bottom corner at 21.26 before netminder Ashley Smith had time to react. The advantage doubled two minutes later when Michael Elder roofed a Kevin Boyd rebound to shock Hull into action. It took them until 34.23 to get one back after Mark Watson had denied their forwards time and time again, Lee Bonner finally finding a way past a resolute Stars defence to get the Humberside outfit on the score sheet. Billingham restored the two-goal gap less than two minutes later, a howler from Smith as he managed to get a cross net pass from Boyd caught in his skates and behind for a gift of a goal. The Pirates response was swift however, Bobby Chamberlain getting one back within 44 seconds to make it a one-goal game going into the final session.
Expecting an onslaught, the Stars made the perfect start as Boyd backhanded past Smith from a face off just 19 seconds in, the home fans starting to dream what seemed to be an impossible dream. But Hull were not about to lie down and again responded quickly, Bonner with a power play marker less than a minute later. The Pirates finally restored parity on 43.06 when Jordan Fisher waltzed through the defence to slot home their fourth, and from that point a weekend of playing short seemed to catch up the home side. It took until the 55th minute for Hull to find what proved to be the game winner, James Archer with the tip-in from a Kevin Phillips effort, then two minutes later Phillips bagged one for himself from the blue line. Billingham withdrew Watson on 58.26 to try and claw their way back into the game, but Matty Davies tapped into the empty net with 20 seconds remaining to give the score line a somewhat flattering look for the visitors.
Man-of-the-Match for the Stars was Mark Watson.
Kevin Boyd 2+1; Michael Elder 1+2; James Moss 1+0; Jack Emerson 0+1; Ethan Hehir 0+1; Darren Stattersfield 0+1
SOG: Mark Watson 48 (13 / 17 / 18)
Lee Bonner 2+0; Matty Davies 1+4; James Archer 1+1; Jordan Fisher 1+1; Kevin Phillips 1+1; Bobby Chamberlain 1+0; Josh Gent 0+1, Jonathan Kirk 0+1
SOG: Ashley Smith 20 (7 / 7 / 6)
Stars TV captured the post-game thoughts of:
It’s another League and Cup weekend on the horizon as Billingham travel to Sutton Sting in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 on Saturday 27th October (face off 7.30pm) before returning to the Forum for their first encounter with Blackburn Hawks in the North Cup on Sunday 28th October, face off 6.30pm.
Solihull Barons 4 Telford Tigers 9
Solway Sharks 5 Billingham Stars 1
Sutton Sting 1 Sheffield Steeldogs 6
Nottingham Lions 1 Whitley Warriors 9
Telford Tigers 11 Sutton Sting 1
Hull Pirates 10 Blackburn Hawks 3
Blackburn Hawks 0 Sheffield Steeldogs 6
Solway Sharks 11 Murrayfield Racers 0
Billingham Stars 4 Hull Pirates 7
All images Linda Crabtree except where credited