Ultimate Windows sponsored Billingham Stars

Ultimate Windows sponsored Billingham Stars showed noticeable signs of improvement but for no reward as they lost out to Sheffield Steeldogs in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 on Saturday before being edged by Telford Tigers at the Forum in a thrilling encounter on Sunday night.

Saturday saw the return of Jack Davies and Tom Keeley to the line-up, the Stars also keeping faith with the younger members of the squad. Facing a full-strength Steeldogs outfit unbeaten thus far in the League, the writing looked to be on the wall when Duncan Speirs slotted home on the spin to open the home side’s account with just 5.34 on the clock. Billingham had only just returned to full strength following a minor penalty called against Andy Finn when the lead was doubled, Andrew Hirst finding the back of the net on 8.54. A good spell of Stars pressure saw chances go begging for Chris Sykes and Kevin Boyd, but they did not capitalise and the home side moved further ahead on 18.18 when Ashley Calvert bundled home the first of his four goals on the night.

Calvert was on the mark again on 26.49, the game all but over before the halfway mark. His hat-trick goal came on 31.40, Calvert perfectly placed to knock in a Thomas Barry rebound off netminder James Flavell’s pads. Although too late to do anything about the result, Billingham sparked into life and got a goal back on 33.06 through top scorer Sykes. The Sheffield response was almost immediate, Clavert bagging his fourth under two minutes later to cap a fine personal performance. There was time left in the period for Flavell to shine as he denied Player/Coach Ben Morgan with an athletic stick save, but 6-1 at the interval was a mountain too large to climb.

Nevertheless the Stars took the game to their opponents for the final twenty, not letting their heads drop, and they got their reward for their improved work rate when the hosts lost possession and Sykes collected his second of the evening with just over three minutes of the game remaining. A period win for the visitors gave them a platform to build on for the following evening, 6-2 the final score.

Man-of-the-Match for Billingham was Chris Sykes.

Steeldogs Stats:

Ashley Calvert 4+0; Andrew Hirst 1+0; Duncan Speirs 1+0; Thomas Relf  0+2; Nathan Salem 0+2; Thomas Barry 0+1; Cameron Brownley 0+1; Tim Smith 0+1; Milan Kolena 0+1; Adrian Palak 0+1

SOG: Brandon Stones 29 (12 / 10 / 7)

Stars Stats:

Chris Sykes 2+0

SOG: James Flavell 44 (11 / 15 / 18)

A pleasant surprise on Sunday as Callum Davies made an unexpected return to the squad, Billingham at full strength for the first time in many weeks with a senior debut for Josh Reynolds. Telford turned up the heat from the first puck drop and the home side had Flavell to thank for keeping the Tigers at bay as he made a string of crucial stops, most notably from Doug Clarkson. The saves seemed to give the rest of the squad the belief they needed and the Stars started to exert some pressure of their own, Edgar ProtĨenko hitting the bar from the point in the sixth minute, then Jack Davies unable to pick his spot past Telford netminder Thomas Hovell three minutes later. Boyd had a chance to slot home a Sykes pass on 11 minutes but Hovell got down well to make the save. Billingham finally got the breakthrough they deserved on the power play on 17.19 when Darren Stattersfield steadied himself before squeezing the puck between Hovell and his near post.

Starting the middle session on the power play themselves, the Tigers levelled with just ten seconds played when Andrew McKinney got the final tip on a blue line bomb from Jonathan Weaver. Unfazed, Billingham went back on the attack but a combination of poor shot selection and some luck for Hovell kept the score line at one each. Telford always looked dangerous when their first line was on the ice, and they moved ahead on 26.11 when Scott McKenzie found Rick Plant free on the back stick from an offensive zone face off for an easy tap in. Back came the hosts and the game was all-square again just before the halfway mark, Sykes chipping the puck over a prone Hovell after an initial save from Michael Elder. Billingham got their noses back in front on 35.29 turning defence into attack, Sykes collecting the puck just inside the blue line and firing through Hovell for 3-2. Both goalkeepers made excellent saves in the closing minutes, however the period ended somewhat controversially as Clarkson thought he had tied up the game with 30 seconds remaining, referee Andrew Miller and the goal judge both ruling that the puck hadn’t entered the net.

McKenzie eventually got the equaliser on 43.20, the Stars guilty of giving the Scot too much room to pick his spot. The Tigers then got the go-ahead goal three minutes later – with Sykes sitting out an interference call, Clarkson had the easiest of chances to knock into an unguarded net with Flavell down. The home side were not ready to lie down just yet and kept coming forward but quality chances were hard to come by, the best opportunity falling to James Moss who saw his effort kicked away with four minutes remaining. Both sides used their time out as the clock wound down, Billingham pulling Flavell for the extra skater with 1.23 remaining, but they lost possession in the neutral zone and McKenzie was left with the simplest of tap-ins into the empty net to seal the game with 26 seconds left.

Man-of-the-Match for the Stars was James Flavell.

Stars Stats:

Chris Sykes 2+1; Darren Stattersfield 1+0; Michael Elder 0+2; Andy Finn 0+1; James Hellens 0+1; Kevin Boyd 0+1

SOG: James Flavell 48 (15 / 19 / 14)

Tigers Stats:

Scott McKenzie 2+2; Rick Plant 1+2; Doug Clarkson 1+1; Andrew McKinney 1+0; Jonathan Weaver 0+3

SOG: Thomas Hovell 28 (10 / 12 / 6)

After a frantic game on Sunday, Billingham Stars TV caught up with some of the main protagonists:

Billingham have yet another tough double header next weekend with National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 matches against Hull Pirates on Saturday 10th November at the Forum (face off 6pm) before the long trip to Shropshire to take on Telford Tigers once again on Sunday 11th November (face off 6pm).

 

Weekend Results:

NIHL(N)1:

Sutton Sting 5 Solihull Barons 6 (after overtime)

Sheffield Steeldogs 6 Billingham Stars 2

Whitley Warriors 1 Sheffield Steeldogs 2

Hull Pirates 14 Sutton Sting 1

Solihull Barons 3 Solway Sharks 4

Nottingham Lions 3 Blackburn Hawks 4

North Cup:

Solway Sharks 5 Hull Pirates 4

Telford Tigers 9 Murrayfield Racers 4

Billingham Stars 3 Telford Tigers 5

 

Images courtesy of Tony Burgum Photography.