Ultimate Windows sponsored Billingham Stars

Ultimate Windows sponsored Billingham Stars suffered the heartbreak of a double loss weekend in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 as they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in Blackburn before losing out to Whitley Warriors in a closely contested North East derby at a packed Forum on Sunday evening.

Short of bodies, the Stars travelled over the Pennines on Saturday to take on the Hawks with Mark Watson returning between the pipes. In a strong opening, Cain Taylor almost knocked the puck past Blackburn netminder Harrison Walker within the first three minutes, then a minute later Craig Thurston hit the post. But it was the home side who found their mark first, James Royds with a defence-splitting pass on 4.39 for Danielius Nomanovas to take round Watson and slot into the unguarded net. Billingham fought hard to get themselves level, Michael Elder and Thurston again with chances to peg the hosts back, but it was Shaun Galloway who potted home a loose puck on 12.37 for his first senior goal who eventually tied things up. Rocked, the Hawks immediately conceded again as Thurston shot high past Walker for his first goal since signing just 18 seconds later.

The visitors looked the brighter team again at the start of the second, and moved further ahead on 23.24 when James Moss showed great strength to take the puck down the boards and centre his pass to Elder free out front to lift it past Walker. Dominating play, the advantage was increased to three on 31.47 when Thurston surged down the right wing and squeezed the puck past Walker, a goal that saw the end of the young keeper’s night as he was replaced by Niks Trapans. Chris Sykes hit the bar soon after, Tom Keeley forcing a glove save from Trapans also, but the home side narrowed the gap on 33.44 when a three-man breakout was finished in the bottom corner by James Neil. Less then a minute later however the three-goal cushion had been restored when the puck appeared to be volleyed past Trapans by Bobby Streetly, the goal credited to Cain Taylor. Despite a period where Billingham appeared to be very much in control, they let their hosts back into the game with two late goals, Ollie Lomax slotting home on 38.28 with the defence asleep at the wheel then just 17 seconds later Neil roofed the puck to make it a one-goal game.

Thurston went past Trapans’ stick for his hat trick on 41.15 but a defensive error let in Royds 24 seconds later to set the nerves jangling on the away team bench. Blackburn’s comeback was completed on 46.01 when Lee Pollitt potted home free on the back stick. The remainder of the session had a shoot-out feel to it as both sides pressed for a winner but the deadlock could not be broken and the game went into a five-minute sudden death overtime session. In the end it was Pollitt who grabbed the glory for the hosts 2.31 into extra time, Nomanovas missing with his shot but setting up Pollitt for the winner as he tucked it under Watson.

Man-of-the-Match for Billingham was Craig Thurston.

Hawks Stats:

James Neil 2+1; Lee Pollitt 2+0; James Royds 1+1 ; Danielius Nomanovas 1+1; Ollie Lomax 1+0; Peta Valusiak 0+4

SOG: Harrison Walker 18 (11 / 7); Niks Trapans 27 (6 / 18 / 3)

Stars Stats:

Craig Thurston 3+0; Cain Taylor 1+1; Michael Elder 1+0; Shaun Galloway 1+0; James Moss 0+1; Kevin Boyd 0+1; Chris Sykes 0+1; Alex Preston 0+1

SOG: Mark Watson 39 (8 / 9 / 20)

In front of a full house on Sunday, the Stars short bench welcomed a Whitley outfit missing Dean Holland and Phil Edgar but still six men stronger than their hosts. The Warriors game plan became apparent before a minute was up as Watson made the save from Ben Campbell, the 30-goal danger man clearly the main threat. The visitors got off the mark on 7.46 with what proved to be the only goal that Campbell had no hand in – the puck still live after the Warriors had hit the bar, Harry Harley backhanded through traffic to beat a screened Watson at his far post. Back came the home side and Edgar Protčenko levelled it up on 9.32 when he let go from just inside the blue line, Whitley netminder Richie Lawson unable to hold on and the puck bobbled over the line. Lawson made amends seconds later with a great stop on the near post to deny Kevin Boyd. Campbell put his side back in front on 13.49 when he found the top corner from the blue line to take Whitley in ahead at the break.

The hard-fought nature of the game didn’t let up in the second session, and the hosts roared back on 23.54 when Ethan Hehir got the tip on a Taylor shot from out right. Their joy lasted less than four minutes as Campbell found stand-in captain Shaun Kippin free at the back post to nose the Warriors ahead, then on 30.29 he bagged what proved to be the game winner when he went around Watson’s net unchallenged and picked his spot. The Stars were not about to lie down just yet however and they gave themselves hope on 34.48 when a pinpoint pass from Boyd found Taylor on the far post to leave Whitley ahead by the narrowest of margins going into the final twenty.

The opening to the final period saw Billingham throw everything at their visitors but found Lawson in unbeatable form. Boyd and Thurston were both denied before a breakout from the Warriors saw Campbell bag his hat trick when he went past Watson’s glove on 52.15. The two-goal gap proved too much for the Stars to claw back, and with Lawson pulling out all the stops the home side had to succumb to a netminder at the top of his game and a top-class marksman who does not miss many.

Man-of-the-Match for Billingham was Edgar Protčenko.

Stars Stats:

Edgar Protčenko 1+0; Cain Taylor 1+0; Ethan Hehir 1+0; James Hellens 0+1; Michael Elder 0+1; Kevin Boyd 0+1

SOG: Mark Watson 42 (19 / 13 / 10)

Warriors Stats:

Ben Campbell 3+1; Shaun Kippin 1+0; Harry Harley 1+0; Ross Connolly 0+2; Sam Zajac 0+1; Callum Watson 0+1; DJ Good 0+1; Jordan Barnes 0+1; David Longstaff 0+1

SOG: Richie Lawson 46 (11 / 19 / 16)

The Stars’ Head Coach Tom Brown had nothing but praise both for his own side and the opposition’s netminder following the derby defeat:

“Both teams came to play tonight and I thought we gave the crowd something to cheer about. We’ve talked all season about playing three periods and tonight we made a step in the right direction. Richie [Lawson] played amazing, he did what he had to do and he made the saves to give his side the win. I don’t think it was a case of tired legs from our side, I just think we came up against a hot goalie. I’m pretty proud of the guys tonight – they worked hard.”

Billingham and Whitley contest the reverse fixture at Hillheads next Sunday 30th December in a National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 fixture, face off 5pm.


Weekend Results:


Solway Sharks 1 Telford Tigers 3

Blackburn Hawks 7 Billingham Stars 6 (after overtime)

Sheffield Steeldogs 5 Nottingham Lions 0

Hull Pirates 13 Blackburn Hawks 0

Sutton Sting 8 Nottingham Lions 1

Telford Tigers 8 Sheffield Steeldogs 4

Billingham Stars 3 Whitley Warriors 5


Images courtesy of Linda Crabtree