Weekend Report 23rd September 2018
ULTIMATE WINDOWS sponsored Billingham Stars came back down to Earth with a bump in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 at the Billingham Forum on Sunday evening, as newly promoted Sutton Sting put a sizeable dent in their recent good form with a 3-6 victory.
The Stars went into Sunday’s game brimming with confidence with four wins on the bounce, and with a full bench with just the injured Jack Davies and Ross Hanlon missing. Sutton showed their intent early however, and shocked the home crowd within the first minute when Jonas Fredriksson found the bottom corner low past James Flavell in the Billingham net to get the visitors off to the perfect start. The Stars, getting to grips with new line formations, struggled to find any rhythm and when chances did come their way – as in the eighth minute when Ethan Hehir set up Chris Sykes alone in front of the net – they failed to seriously test Sting netminder Warren Gilfoyle. Both sides repeatedly fell foul of referee Steve Brown, and it was on a Sutton power play that the visitors doubled their advantage in the 10th minute as Craig Elliott found the back of the net from the right-hand face-off circle. The rest of the period littered with minor penalties gave both sides opportunities with the extra man but it closed out 0-2.
More penalties at the start of the middle session gave the Stars a five-on-three advantage in the 23rd minute and they exploited it to the full, captain Michael Elder reducing the deficit straight from the face off through the smallest of gaps after James Goodman had been sent to the sinbin for delaying the game. Péter Tóth’s slash on Sykes as he got away a shot in front of the net in the 25th minute went unpunished as Billingham were restricted to a single shot on goal, Edgar Protčenko’s blue line effort finding Gilfoyle’s middle. Referee Brown continued to make use of his whistle, Richie Thornton next into the box on the 28-minute mark on a contentious tripping call, and with the Stars’ penalty kill unit on an uncharacteristically poor night Sutton made it count as Dominic Martin fired home on the back stick with Flavell not set. An error of judgment on the Sting bench saw them ice six skaters for a 20-second passage of play in the 31st minute, Brown calling the too many men penalty eventually and giving Billingham another chance to get back into the game. They took it a minute later, Hehir tapping to Kevin Boyd out front for the one timer past Gilfoyle. Both sides survived scares late in the period as Flavell and Gilfoyle both made crucial saves to prevent any further additions to the score.
The Stars started the final stanza on the back foot, Andy Finn sitting out a slashing call, and once again Sutton made in count as Stanislav Lascek fired past Flavell’s glove to open up the gap with less than a minute gone. More power play chances came Billingham’s way but they seemed unable to find a way past a resolute Sting defence, and even when they did the quality of final shot was missing. Sutton did not have the same problems, and on their next power play in the 52nd minute Martin bagged his second when he chopped the puck home at the far post. To add insult to injury, the Sting made the game safe a minute later whilst short-handed, Brady Doxey roofing the puck with David Pyatt warming the bench on an interference minor. The Stars netted a consolation effort with just over four minutes to play when a Ben Davison point shot bobbled past Gilfoyle at his near post, but the game had gone and Billingham were left to wonder how it had all gone so wrong with 3-6 the final score.
Man-of-the-Match for the Stars was Michael Elder.
Ben Davison 1+0; Michael Elder 1+0; Kevin Boyd 1+0; Andy Finn 0+1; Chris Sykes 0+1; Ethan Hehir 0+1
Dominic Martin 2+0; Craig Elliott 1+1; Brady Doxey 1+0; Jonas Fredriksson 1+0; Stanislav Lascek 1+0; Craig Wallis 0+2; Niks Veiss 0+2; James Goodman 0+1; Scott Morris 0+1; David Pyatt 0+1
Billingham Stars TV captured the reflections of both coaches and Stars captain Michael Elder after the game:
The Stars are in North Cup action next weekend, a trip to Hull Pirates on Saturday 29th September followed by the visit of Solway Sharks to the Forum on Sunday 30th September.
Solihull Barons 4 Whitley Warriors 3 (after overtime)
Solway Sharks 12 Nottingham Lions 2
Whitley Warriors 2 Blackburn Hawks 5
Billingham Stars 3 Sutton Sting 6
Nottingham Lions 2 Solihull Barons 14
Blackburn Hawks 2 Telford Tigers 4
Telford Tigers 6 Solway Sharks 1
Images courtesy of Linda Crabtree