Ultimate Windows sponsored Billingham Stars

ULTIMATE WINDOWS-sponsored Billingham Stars continue to build a squad that they hope will challenge for honours in a week which also saw the release of this season's fixtures. Another busy seven days started with the revealing of Stars second import Edgar Protčenko, followed by another five crucial re-signs.

Vilnius native Protčenko is not entirely an unknown quantity. Despite never having played for a British team, the 21-year-old Lithuanian has made several appearances on UK soil as part of his national side at various levels, including senior. Most prominently, Protčenko was in the Lithuanian men’s squad that competed in Division 1B in Belfast in 2017, the tournament that saw Great Britain win gold in the first stage of their journey to the Elite level of the sport. The Lithuanians took home the bronze from that tournament, with Protčenko scoring the game-winning goal in their 3-1 final victory over Croatia. For a young man, Protčenko is already much travelled with stints in Germany, Canada and Austria as well as playing on the international stage at Under 18, Under 20 and senior levels. An imposing figure at 6’3”, the blue liner adds real presence at the back whilst past observers of his play have highlighted a potential weapon in his thundering slapshot.

Edgar was kind enough to answer some questions on signing for the Stars:

Q. Welcome to Billingham! What made you decide to come to play in the United Kingdom? Why did you choose Billingham Stars?

"Some Lithuanians have already played in this League and I have heard kind words about it. There are a lot of games per season and I like that."

Q. You have played hockey in a few different countries and played in Great Britain at international level - do you know anything about British ice hockey?

"I have played against British U-18, U-20 and senior teams - they wereusually well prepared and they always were well-skilled players."

Q. How would you describe yourself to anyone who hasn’t seen you play?

"I always try to do my best, willing to score goals, make assists and do everything to help my team to get to the highest position."

Q. Do you have any personal goals for this season?

"As soon as it was posted on Facebook that I am coming, many people commented and messaged wishing me to have a great time there and to have a great season, so I hope I will make them proud. I expect to get to the play-offs and to go to the finals and I will do everything for that."

6. What do you enjoy away from ice hockey? What do you hope to do with your time in the UK when you're not playing?

"I like reading books, watching movies, spending time with my friends. In my free time there I would like to explore Billingham and that part of England."

Thanks to Edgar for his time, and another big welcome to Billingham from all at the Stars.

The return of Andy Finn is a real boost to both the blue line and the dressing room. Always playing the game in the right spirit, Finn is respected by his peers throughout the League. His approach to the game is a good lesson for the more junior members of the squad to watch and learn from, and his signature hip check is definitely one that opposition players try to avoid!

Stars added their first netminder to the roster this week with the signing of James Flavell. Considered one of the best netminders in the League, Flavell has backstopped both the Stars and the Warriors to League titles and remains the name many Billingham fans look for first when the team sheets come out. A cool head between the pipes, Flavell is capable of winning games for his team seemingly on his own. Flavell has undoubtably proved himself to be one of the most reliable and collected netminders in the National League.

Billingham’s very own ‘Ginger Fly’ was confirmed as a returnee midweek, Ben Davison committing himself to another season in a Stars jersey. Davison has spent recent campaigns patrolling the blue line but is happy to play up front if required and is well capable of turning on the speed for a rush into the offensive zone. Never short of a word or two, Davison shared his thoughts on re-signing:

"I think the summer off has done everyone a world of good, last season was the most intense and most games a lot of the squad had ever played. We all know what to expect now and with some fresh faces coming in and a different approach from our new coach it might just be what we need to hit the ground running come September. Getting some wins under our belt straight off is critical, it sends a message out to the League and a team pulls together a lot more when score lines are going their way. A lot of the other teams have recruited well but it’s down to us to show that a team on paper means nothing it’s all about who wants it the most on the day."

Getting the right blend of youth and experience will be crucial to the Stars success this season, meaning the return of Michael Bowman is more than welcome. Bowman has been leading the senior Billingham coaching team for the past five seasons, his knowledge of the squad will be invaluable as new coach Tom Brown gets to know his players. With the pressure of being the ‘man at the helm’ removed, Bowman will revel in the opportunity to make a difference as a centre and an experienced head for the younger members of the team to learn from. 'Bomber' was happy to comment on the change in coaching:

"Allen and Terry asked me together with Richie to help out with the coaching in 2013 until they found someone and five years later they have found him! I think it is the right move for the club to have one man in full control and I am happy to help out in any way I can."

Finally this week Stars announced the return of James Moss. With an eye for goal and a spectacular finish, Moss has always proved popular with the Billingham fans. Last season Moss linked up well with Latvian import Deniss Baškatovs with a points haul of 43. A consistent thorn in the side of opposition defencemen, Moss’s quest for the ‘beautiful goal’ will continue for another campaign.

League Stats

Season 2017-2018

All-Time

Andy Finn

20 games                             

2 goals                          

6 assists                             

8 points                             

185 games

16 goals

55 assists

71 points

James Flavell

24 games

222 games

Ben Davison

32 games

3 goals

6 assists

9 points

237 games (9th overall)

22 goals

38 assists

60 points

Michael Bowman

29 games

12 goals

11 assists

23 points

165 games

80 goals

107 assists

187 points

James Moss

30 games

10 goals

22 assists

32 points

185 games

70 goals

98 assists

168 points

After a signings-packed week, Anth Lowe of Stars Media Team once again put down his thoughts on Stars returning players:

"Andy 'The Cube' Finn returns to the Billingham blue line. Work commitments have shortened Andy's seasons for the last couple of years meaning he was only available for 20 of the 36 League games last year. A steady and composed player we certainly hope his boss gives him more weekends off.
"James Flavell is Stars number 1 nettie. Can't say much more than that. A calm presence who is never flustered and never loses his cool (unlike others in the League). JJ will be hoping for some improved numbers this year as the team in front of him plays it's second year in a tougher league.
"Ben Davison is an excellent skater who can also play up front if required. Ben was one of the team's most consistent performers last season and we hope for the same again.
"Without the added role of head coach, Michael Bowman will be able to focus more time on his own game. A responsible two-way player who is still more than capable of putting up good points. I would like to see him use his experience and centre a line with young prospect Ethan Hehir to help his development.
"James Moss played predominantly on a line with import Deniss Baškatovs last year and flourished. Over a point per game and his best points totals in Billingham saw him emerge as a go-to guy."

Stars will continue to post signings as and when they happen on social media, with a round-up of the week’s happenings on the website on Fridays. We hope next week to rearrange some challenge fixtures to replace the ones lost when Whitley withdrew last week.