Match Report 16th December 2018
Ultimate Windows sponsored Billingham Stars had an eventful end to their North Cup campaign as they coped with the last-minute loss of netminder James Flavell to register a 0-4 win over Murrayfield Racers in Edinburgh on Sunday evening.
Travelling with just one goaltender, the Stars were rocked by an injury to Flavell just before the team set off for Scotland. With no other netminders available within the club, Billingham requested a loan from the Racers and were assigned their under-20s goalie, 18-year-old Andrew Wright. Both sides were short for what was effectively a dead rubber, neither team able to qualify from their North Cup group, but with pride at stake and important League games coming up it was all about the performance for the Teessiders. They almost got the perfect start as Craig Thurston hit the post with just 13 seconds played, but the opening minutes were cagey as the Stars got used to an unfamiliar face between the pipes. Wright made his first stop in the second minute with a scoop at the near post which seemed to give his temporary team mates the confidence to play. At the other end Mark McGill was frustrating Billingham’s forwards as he made saves from Kevin Boyd and Michael Elder, whilst Wright continued to grow into the game and denied Kyle Murray at point-blank range in the tenth minute followed by a catch under the pad from Joel Gautschi four minutes later to keep the game scoreless after twenty minutes.
The deadlock was finally broken on 24.46 when Cain Taylor cleverly backhanded into the far corner of McGill’s net to give the visitors the lead. The Stars beginning to dominate, Murrayfield called a timeout just before the halfway mark to make some changes to their systems, but Billingham were looking the better side and almost doubled their lead a minute later when Taylor put Chris Sykes through on goal, the top scorer hitting the post. Thurston, Boyd and Sykes again all had further chances as the Stars upped the pressure, but McGill stood firm to keep it a one-goal game going into the final session.
Billingham looked to make the game safe early in the third period, but were finding McGill in irresistible form. Still dangerous on the break, Wright was required to keep his own team at bay and did a fine job with a high shot from Richard Hartmann in the 43rd minute. The Stars moved up another gear and eventually found a way past McGill on 48.37 with some tricky interplay that was eventually swept into the net by Boyd. Ethan Hehir made it three on 54.48 before Boyd killed the game less than two minutes later with a flick through McGill’s pads on the spin. There was time left for Wright to showcase his skills when he smothered the puck from a lurking Callum Boyd in the final minute, the young keeper rewarded for his efforts with the visiting team’s Man-of-the-Match award.
Man-of-the-Match for Billingham was Andrew Wright.
SOG: Mark McGill 48 (14 / 14 / 20)
Kevin Boyd 2+0; Cain Taylor 1+0; Ethan Hehir 1+0; Matthew Campbell 0+2; Edgar Protčenko 0+1; Chris Sykes 0+1; Michael Elder 0+1; Craig Thurston 0+1; Alex Preston 0+1
SOG: Andrew Wright 19 (7 / 6 / 6)
The Stars’ Head Coach Tom Brown was grateful to young netminder Wright for stepping in and doing a job:
“We just needed to find a way tonight, we’ve been snakebit for a while so it was good to get the points. We lost Flav before we even set off, it’s just one of those things but we got lucky – we got a young kid who stepped in and came up trumps. He made some big saves, and if it wasn’t for him we could’ve found ourselves behind the eight ball at times.”
Billingham now concentrate solely on National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 with a game at Blackburn Hawks on Saturday 22nd December (face off 6pm) followed by the first Tees-Tyne derby of the season when Whitley Warriors visit the Forum next Sunday 23rd December (face off 6.30pm).
Solihull Barons 2 Hull Pirates 8
Solway Sharks 7 Whitley Warriors 2
Telford Tigers 9 Nottingham Lions 1
Sutton Sting 3 Sheffield Steeldogs 10
Whitley Warriors 7 Sutton Sting 4
Hull Pirates 6 Solway Sharks 5
Nottingham Lions 0 Telford Tigers 6
Sheffield Steeldogs 4 Blackburn Hawks 1
Murrayfield Racers 0 Billingham Stars 4
All images courtesy of Ian Coyle Photography