Weekend Report: Stars Fall To Sharks & Barons
ULTIMATE WINDOWS sponsored Billingham Stars’ inability to play for a full 60 minutes proved their undoing in both of their National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 encounters this weekend as they lost out to Solway and Solihull.
On Saturday in Scotland it was the visitors who got off to the best start, Michael Elder and Deniss Baškatovs already having tested netminder Kyle Johnson before they moved ahead in the second minute when Player/Coach Michael Bowman collected a loose puck from the Sharks defence and delayed his shot slightly before finding the bottom corner. The home side stirred into action, Matthew Campbell did just enough to put captain Struan Tonnar off his shot in the fifth minute. On the power play in the seventh minute, Elder’s point shot was gloved by Johnson before play switched ends and Ross Murray had his short-handed chance kicked away by Billingham netminder James Flavell. With former Star Scott Cooper in the box for interference, the Teessiders doubled their lead in the 15th minute when Callum Davies collected the puck behind the goal and made his move far side to poke past Johnson. A minute later and it was three, Alex Preston getting the touch on an inbound Baškatovs effort to deflect past Johnson. Solway needed to respond and just 14 seconds from the buzzer they gave themselves hope when Iain Bowie found the roof of the net.
A netminder change at the start of the second session saw Calum Hepburn replace Johnson between the pipes. It was clear from early on that the Sharks meant to take the game to their visitors, and they were back within one in the 22nd minute when Scott Henderson fired over a prone Flavell. Stars chances limited, Chris Sykes tried to set up Elder on the break in the 24th minute but his pass was too high to control. A string of bewildering calls from referee Alex Stewart did not help the Billingham cause as they found themselves increasingly on the back foot. The momentum now definitely with the hosts, they eventually squared things up in the 32nd minute when Flavell could not get across his net quick enough to cover his near post, Tonnar with the tap in. Solway hit the bar just seconds after the restart as the shot count rose. In a rare foray forward, Baškatovs drew the rebound in the 36th minute but Sykes wasn’t quite able to put it away. Inevitably the home side got their noses in front a minute later when a mistake on the blue line let in Marek Charvat, the Czech defenceman making no mistake.
Having lost their way in the middle session, Billingham could not get back into their rhythm and fell further behind within the first three minutes of the final period, no one picking up Bowie at the back stick as he completed a nice move by going past Flavell’s glove. In the 45th minute the hosts killed off the game – there did not appear to be much danger when Connor Henderson approached down the right wing but the defence stood too far off him and he was able to beat Flavell at the near post. The Sharks now content to play possession hockey, they limited their guests to just three shots in the 20-minute session and rounded the game out in the 49th minute when Flavell fumbled a Cooper shot. 7-3 the final score.
Man-of-the-Match for the Stars was Callum Davies.
Iain Bowie 2+2; Scott Henderson 1+2; Struan Tonnar 1+1; Scott Cooper 1+0; Marek Charvat 1+0; Connor Henderson 1+0; Jordan Buesa 0+2; Duncan Speirs 0+1, Steven Moore 0+1
SOG: Kyle Johnson 15; Calum Hepburn 7 (4 / 3)
Michael Bowman 1+1; Callum Davies 1+0; Alex Preston 1+0; Chris Sykes 0+1; Ethan Hehir 0+1; Ross Hanlon 0+1; Jack Davies 0+1; Deniss Baškatovs 0+1
SOG: James Flavell 45 (11 / 25 / 9)
Back at the Forum on Sunday, Billingham seemed to carry their lethargy from the last two periods in Dumfries into their game against the Barons as they fell behind with less than a minute played, a mistake in the corner seeing the puck centred to Elliot Farrell who slotted home coolly under Flavell. Keen to make amends quickly the Stars went on the front foot, Baškatovs shooting just over in the third minute before netminder Josh Nicholls made saves from Preston and the returning Jack Emerson. Soilhull looked dangerous every time they came forward however and Farrell picked up his second just past the session’s halfway mark when Tomas Janak dispossessed Sykes on the boards and found Farrell lurking in front of the net. Emerson took David Rogers to task for illegally holding him on the ice just before the 11-minute mark, both men drawing double minors for fighting. The Barons increased their advantage in the 16th minute, Billingham unable to clear the zone and no one picking up Thomas Soar out front leading to the inevitable third goal.
The home side needed to respond but nothing seemed to be clicking for them. Unfortunately for the Stars the visitors’ potent attack was not letting up and they made it four in the 24th minute, Niklas Ottosson putting home a rebound. The home side eventually got themselves on the score sheet in the 29th minute when a big rebound fell to Callum Davies who bundled it over the line. A minute later and the momentum should have swung back to the hosts, Nicholls despatched to the dressing room for catching Sykes in the face with his stick and drawing blood to put the Stars on a five-minute power play with Daniel Brittle taking over between the pipes. Solihull’s penalty kill was excellent however as they restricted Billingham to just a handful of chances, Bowman failing to put away a rebound off the post and Sykes forcing the kick save before the Barons returned to full strength. Almost immediately the Stars found themselves a man down, Matthew Campbell called for tripping, and Solihull made the advantage count as Adam Brittle had the simplest of chances to score with Flavell down and out. Seconds after the restart the visitors rubbed salt in the wounds when Ottosson capitalised on a lucky bounce to backhand past Flavell and give the Barons a five-goal cushion at the break.
Words said in the dressing room, Billingham came out for the final period looking to go on the offensive and had got a goal back within a minute, Elder finding a route past Brittle in the Barons net. Brother Adam was handed a 2+10 penalty for a check to the head that left Baškatovs flat out on the ice seconds after the restart, Baškatovs having the last laugh as two minutes later he collected a pass through traffic from Ben Davison and slotted home to reduce the deficit still further. Billingham switched off for a few minutes in the middle of the period, two defensive errors leading to goals for Soar and Luke Brittle to restore the advantage on 50 minutes. With that small exception however the Stars looked a different team and they had two goals back again in the 54th minute, Elder squeezing one past Brittle’s skate then just 22 seconds later he fired straight through the Solihull netminder for his hat trick. The momentum very much now with the hosts, James Moss hit the crossbar in the 56th minute then a minute later the Stars were convinced they had scored but with the officials unsighted referee David Emmerson had to rely on the decision of the goal judge who ruled that the puck had not crossed the line. Billingham called their time out at this point and pulled the netminder to give them the extra skater, but the closest they came to getting closer to their opponents was a Baškatovs effort that found Brittle’s pad in the final minute of play.
Man-of-the-Match for the Stars was Michael Elder.
Michael Elder 3+1; Callum Davies 1+1; Deniss Baškatovs 1+0; Chris Sykes 0+2; Richie Thornton 0+1; Ben Davison 0+1; Matthew Campbell 0+1; Tom Keeley 0+1
SOG: James Flavell 22 (12 / 10); Mark Watson 13
Thomas Soar 2+1; Elliot Farrell 2+0; Niklas Ottosson 2+0; Luke Brittle 1+3; Adam Brittle 1+0; Edward Eaton 0+3; Josh Bruce 0+2; Marcus Maynard 0+1; David Rogers 0+1; Tomas Janak 0+1; Matthew Maurice 0+1
SOG: Josh Nicholls 12 (8 / 4); Daniel Brittle 22 (6 / 16)
Speaking after Sunday’s game, Billingham’s Bench Coach Garry Dowd was left frustrated by his side’s ‘one period’ weekend:
“We started off slow tonight and made some mistakes that put us in a three goal hole. Not an impossible task at that point but in the second we just let them take another three goals. We’ve shown we can compete with the best when we work hard and that’s what we did in the last period – ultimately that’s the difference between us and the teams above us, they do it every period. We have a period off and we collapse big time, as we’ve shown in two games this weekend.”
The Stars are on the road next weekend in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1, the long trip to Telford Tigers on Saturday 3rd March (face off 6pm) followed by the big Tyne-Tees derby at Whitley Warriors on Sunday 4th March (face off 5pm).
Telford Tigers 4 Hull Pirates 2
Blackburn Hawks 14 The Dragons 1
Solway Sharks 7 Billingham Stars 3
Sheffield Steeldogs 6 Solihull Barons 0
Sheffield Steeldogs 16 The Dragons 2
Whitley Warriors 2 Telford Tigers 3
Hull Pirates 11 Solway Sharks 2
Billingham Stars 5 Solihull Barons 8
Nottingham Lions 5 Blackburn Hawks 6 (after overtime)
Images: Sharks - David Morrison / Barons - Linda Crabtree