Match Report 30th December 2018
Ultimate Windows sponsored Billingham Stars pushed near neighbours Whitley Warriors all the way with a third period fightback in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 on Tyneside on Sunday evening but ultimately came up short, going down 5-3.
The Stars arrived on Tyneside with a bench six bodies shorter than their rivals, Michael Bowman and netminder James Flavell returning to the line-up but still missing key senior players across all lines and in defence. The first period was end-to-end as both goaltenders found themselves quite busy, Whitley’s Richie Lawson the first to make a serious save when he gloved and smothered an tight-angle effort from Craig Thurston at the near post with just over a minute gone. Returning Warriors captain Dean Holland slapped a shot at Flavell’s middle in the third minute, then two minutes later Flavell showed excellent reactions to deny Ben Campbell. Billingham were shading the play but a combination of poor shot choice and another sterling display from Lawson between the pipes meant that they could not find the back of the net despite some clear-cut chances. In particular, Lawson got across the net well to keep out Bowman in the 12th minute, then on 15 minutes a mistake in the offensive zone by Liam Smedley set Chris Sykes away one-on-one with Lawson, but the Stars forward could not squeeze the puck past. The visitors were made to pay for their inability to finish on 19.04 when DJ Good found the smallest of gaps between Flavell’s arm and the post to open the scoring and send the hosts into the dressing rooms on the ascendancy.
The late goal appeared to knock some of the stuffing out the Stars and they fell further behind within a minute of the restart, a poor attempted clearance from the corner finding danger man Ben Campbell who turned and shot high past Flavell. It was three on 24.56, Player/Coach David Longstaff picking out Campbell all alone to round Flavell and poke the puck underneath him. It was Whitley’s turn to dominate play, and with Billingham second to every puck it was left to Flavell in particular to keep the home side at bay. The few opportunities that did fall Billingham’s way were again squandered as they continued to labour in front of the net, the gap remaining at three going into the second interval.
With local pride at stake, the Stars came out for the final session with their tails up, Bowman making Lawson work in the 45th minute then a minute later captain Michael Elder’s effort saw Lawson give up a big rebound. A too many men call against the Warriors bench gave Billingham a power play opportunity in the 47th minute and they grasped it with both hands, James Moss one-timing high past Lawson on 48.18 after Thurston had dug the puck out behind the net. With Flavell making the stops at the other end, it was Thurston who made it a one-goal game on 54.58 when his shot through traffic beat Lawson down low to give the visitors hope. Whitley restored the two-goal gap on 56.06 when Longstaff found the top corner from a tight angle but Billingham were not down and out and they made it a nervy final few minutes when Moss tapped home an Elder rebound on 58.01. In a desperate attempt to level things up the Stars bench pulled Flavell and played out the final 15 seconds with a line of six forwards, but the puck came loose and Good was able to put it into an empty net, the goal given despite the buzzer appearing to sound before the puck crossed the line to make the final score 5-3.
Man-of-the-Match for Billingham was James Flavell.
Ben Campbell 2+1; DJ Good 2+0; David Longstaff 1+1; Callum Watson 0+1; Dean Holland 0+1; Harry Harley 0+1
SOG: Richie Lawson 44 (18 / 5 / 21)
James Moss 2+0; Craig Thurston 1+1; Michael Elder 0+1; Kevin Boyd 0+1
SOG: James Flavell 51 (20 / 16 / 15)
The Stars’ Bench Coach Garry Dowd was pleased with the way his side almost climbed out of the three-goal hole they found themselves in:
“We came short-handed with key senior players missing, especially in defence, but we went with what we had. They scored late in the first which put us on a downer, they got the jump at the start of the second and scored straight away so we were on the back foot. We kept going and tried to break them down but they play to a good system. That said we clawed it all the way back and at 4-3 I put all forwards on to try and get something out of the game but it wasn’t to be.”
Billingham start 2019 in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 with a game at Hull Pirates on Saturday 5th January (face off 6pm) followed by the visit of Nottingham Lions to the Forum next Sunday 6th January (face off 6.30pm).
Solihull Barons 2 Telford Tigers 8
Blackburn Hawks 0 Hull Pirates 7
Sheffield Steeldogs 8 Whitley Warriors 1
Whitley Warriors 5 Billingham Stars 3
Hull Pirates 3 Sheffield Steeldogs 2
Nottingham Lions 0 Solway Sharks 7
Sutton Sting 7 Blackburn Hawks 6
Telford Tigers 8 Solihull Barons 5
Images courtesy of Colin Edwards