Ultimate Windows sponsored Billingham Stars

Ultimate Windows sponsored Billingham Stars suffered a defeat at the hands of Telford Tigers in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 before tumbling out of North Cup contention with a home ice loss to Sheffield Steeldogs in a weekend that saw the Teessiders struggle to hit the target.

Billingham travelled with a large bench to Shropshire on Saturday and rolled with four forward lines from the start, James Flavell resuming netminding duties after his four-match suspension. Craig Thurston was the first to test either goaltender with less than two minutes gone with a tight angle shot, but Thomas Hovell was equal to the challenge. Telford’s multiple offensive threats always looked dangerous however, and it was top points scorer Andrew McKinney who set up their first goal with a layback to Scott McKenzie on the point who slapped home past Flavell’s glove on 6.47. Thurston again looked to unlock the Tigers defence in the eighth minute but found Hovell’s glove. At the other end Flavell did well to keep out Jason Silverthorn with a high catch just before the halfway point. A slashing call against Jonathan Weaver gave the Stars a power play opportunity and they took it on 13.35, a pinpoint pass from Thurston finding captain Michael Elder free out front to one time the puck home. The home side’s lead was almost restored just 40 seconds later as only a last-gasp smother from Flavell at his far post kept out the imposing Doug Clarkson. Flavell then stacked the pads to deny Adam Taylor with just over a minute to play to ensure the sides went into the dressing room level.

Perhaps surprised to find themselves being pegged back, Telford came flying out of the blocks and nosed ahead with less than a minute of the second session played, no one picking up McKinney and the former Elite Leaguer was free to round Flavell and place the puck past his outstretched glove. The visitors fought back, a 22nd-minute punt from Shaun Galloway finding Hovell’s middle before parity was restored on 23.47, puck ping-pong in front of the net eventually potted home by Chris Sykes. The game was finely poised until just before the halfway mark when Brodie Jesson fired home from the blue line with what proved to be the winning goal. Galloway and James Moss both found Hovell in great form, but the hosts were beginning to get on top of the game and moved further ahead on 36.09 with Jesson’s second. Down to four men late in the period with Jack Davies sitting out a hooking minor, Billingham conceded in the last minute when McKinney found Clarkson on the back stick for the one-timer.

Weak defending in the 43rd minute allowed the Tigers to increase their advantage as Silverthorn muscled his way through to round Flavell. Unable to capitalise on a five-minute major handed to Jesson for fighting, the visitors fell further behind on 49.13 – Rick Plant waiting for Flavell to commit before roofing the puck. The hosts rounded off the scoring on 52.54, Jordan Stokes firing high into the net from a face off in the offensive zone, 8-2 perhaps not reflective of a game that saw the Stars compete well but against a team that are clinical in front of the net.

Man-of-the-Match for Billingham was Ethan Hehir.

Tigers Stats:

Brodie Jesson 2+0; Andrew McKinney 1+4; Richard Plant 1+3; Jordan Stokes 1+2; Jason Silverthorn 1+1; Scott McKenzie 1+0; Doug Clarkson 1+0; Dan Mitchell 0+2; Joe Hazeldine 0+1; Jonathan Weaver 0+1; Nick Oliver 0+1

SOG: Thomas Hovell 22 (6 / 9 / 7)

Stars Stats:

Chris Sykes 1+0; Michael Elder 1+0; James Moss 0+1; Craig Thurston 0+1

SOG: James Flavell 45 (18 / 17 / 10) Mark Watson 8

Saturday’s game saw Kevin Boyd and James Moss pick up injuries, and with Jack Davies, Andy Finn and Jack Emerson also unavailable the Stars’ bench was much reduced to face the Steeldogs although Richie Thornton did make a welcome return to the blue line. The game had been rendered meaningless by the Steeldogs’ victory in Solway the previous evening to ensure the hosts could not catch their visitors in their North Cup group. A tight first period ensued with chances few and far between, netminders Mark Watson and Dmitri Zimozdra with little serious work to do. Cain Taylor and Josh Reynolds had half chances in the tenth minute, but the closest either side came to breaking the deadlock was in the 15th minute when Edgar ProtĨenko, Michael Bowman and Taylor again had successive punts on Zimozdra’s net but without hitting the target.

Matthew Campbell having been called for slashing on the buzzer, Billingham started the middle period on the penalty kill and were made to pay when Nathan Salem found the gap between the crossbar and Watson’s shoulder on 21.17. Sheffield moved further ahead somewhat controversially on 25.16, Liam Charnock backhanding through Watson’s skates with the home side protesting an earlier crease infringement. The Stars – and particularly Watson – shaken, Steeldogs made it three just 11 seconds later through Duncan Speirs, the hosts replacing Watson with Flavell for the remainder of the game. Billingham continued to work at it and almost got one back through Hehir in the 33rd minute, but Sheffield killed the game in the final minute, again with a touch of controversy, as Cameron Brownley lifted the puck over a prone Flavell despite seconds earlier appearing to check James Hellens in the head.

Steeldogs gave some ice time to third-choice netminder Curtis Warburton in the third period, and he made a good kick save from Sykes in the 44th minute. Sheffield continued to capitalise on their good fortune with a fifth goal on 47.57, Flavell with an initial excellent save from Ashley Calvert but the puck came out onto the stick of James Spurr who potted into the unguarded net. The game over as a contest, the impetus fizzled out of both sides and the remaining minutes saw little in the way of goalmouth action, the home side shut out on their own ice for the first time this season.

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

Stars Stats:

SOG: Mark Watson 17 (12 / 5); James Flavell 12 (5 / 7)

Steeldogs Stats:

Cameron Brownley 1+1; Duncan Speirs 1+1; Nathan Salem 1+1; James Spurr 1+0; Liam Charnock 1+0; Ashley Calvert 0+2; Lewis Bell 0+1; Ben Morgan 0+1; Thomas Relf 0+1; Andrew Hirst 0+1; Milan Kolena 0+1

SOG: Dmitri Zimozdra 18 (13 / 5); Curtis Warburton 6

Billingham Stars TV spoke to some of the main parties post-game:

Billingham will welcome Telford Tigers to the Forum for the return National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 fixture next Sunday 9th December, face off 6.30pm.

 

Weekend Results:

NIHL(N)1:

Telford Tigers 8 Billingham Stars 2

Whitley Warriors 11 Nottingham Lions 2

Blackburn Hawks 3 Solway Sharks 9

Solihull Barons 3 Sutton Sting 2

North Cup:

Murrayfield Racers 1 Hull Pirates 11

Solway Sharks 4 Sheffield Steeldogs 5

Hull Pirates 3 Telford Tigers 2 (after overtime and penalty shots)

Billingham Stars 0 Sheffield Steeldogs 5

 

All images: Linda Crabtree