Weekend Report 9th September 2018
ULTIMATE WINDOWS sponsored Billingham Stars got their National Ice Hockey League North Cup campaign off to the best possible start with a comprehensive 8-2 victory over the reborn Murrayfield Racers at the Forum on Sunday evening.
Travelling to Teesside for the first time since 1994, the Racers arrived a little under-strength with 13 skaters and one netminder. The first period got underway in controversial fashion as Darren Stattersfield picked up a 2+10 minute penalty in the first half-minute despite not appearing to be involved in the actual incident. The numbers were evened up just before the two-minute mark when Daniel Abercrombie took a delay the game penalty, Joel Gautschi going close for the visitors seconds later to give Stars netminder James Flavell an early test. Billingham on the power play in the third minute and the home side pressed their advantage to maximum effect, Chris Sykes picking his spot for the opening goal with less than 30 seconds to go on Abercrombie’s call. The Stars looking lively, Edgar Protčenko slid his effort just past the far post in the fourth minute. Paired with debutant Kevin Boyd, Sykes teed up his new linemate a few minutes later but Boyd’s shot was straight at Murrayfield goaltender Mark McGill. In a rare foray forward, Racers hit the post seconds later when a stray pass found former Elite League marksman Martin Cingel. In truth however, Billingham were dominating possession and were carving out chances at will, Jack Emerson, Cain Taylor and Michael Bowman all thwarted by McGill before Taylor finally made the breakthrough in the 13th minute when he potted home an Emerson rebound for his first goal in a Stars jersey. Less than half a minute later the game’s standout moment as Boyd netted his first goal in fine style, his backhand through traffic finding the roof of McGill’s net to put the hosts three up. Murrayfield showed great composure and responded almost immediately through Abercrombie, a late chance falling to Cingel but Flavell smothered to keep the gap at two going into the break.
The warning signs for the visitors were there early in the middle stanza as Protčenko skated the full length of the ice and hit the post in the 21st minute. Racers caused pockets of trouble, Callum Boyd forcing a blocker save in the 23rd minute, but Billingham had stepped up a gear and moved further ahead in the 26th minute when Protčenko found Sykes who cued up Callum Davies to shoot past McGill stick side. Murrayfield survived several intense shifts from their hosts, the third line of Taylor, Emerson and Ethan Hehir looking particularly effective. Eventually something had to give under unrelenting pressure, and Sykes got his second when he was released by Alex Preston in the 36th minute, the final touch coming off a Racers defenceman. A minute later and it was six, Callum Davies winning a face off in the offensive zone and tapping to Michael Elder who one-timed into the far corner. The latter stages of the period now all one-way traffic, Elder hit the bar in the 38th minute before Jack Davies rounded off the session when he tapped home with a second left on the clock before the buzzer sounded.
Mark Watson replaced Flavell at the start of the third period, Billingham content to control the game with such a commanding lead. Taylor found the crossbar in the 41st minute, then Bowman was foiled by a scrambling Murrayfield defence three minutes later. Sykes looked hungry for his hat-trick but twice was denied when one-on-one with McGill and he had to settle for a brace. Racers hadn’t given up the fight and tested Watson through Gautschi and Callum Boyd, before they eventually got some reward for their dogged determination when Cingel netted a consolation marker with just over a minute to go. The Stars had the final say however, Matthew Campbell poking the puck home from close range in the final half-minute to make the final score 8-2.
Man-of-the-Match for Billingham was Ethan Hehir.
Chris Sykes 2+2; Callum Davies 1+1; Kevin Boyd 1+1; Michael Elder 1+0; Jack Davies 1+0; Matthew Campbell 1+0; Cain Taylor 1+0; Edgar Protčenko 0+2; Alex Preston 0+2; Andy Finn 0+1; Richie Thornton 0+1; Ben Davison 0+1; Jack Emerson 0+1
SOG: James Flavell 18 (10 / 8); Mark Watson 13
Daniel Abercrombie 1+0; Martin Cingel 1+0; Joel Gautschi 0+1; Patriks Grigors 0+1; Callum Boyd 0+1
SOG: Mark McGill 43 (9 / 22 / 12)
As ever Billingham Stars TV were there to get some post-match reactions:
The Stars are on the road twice next weekend, a North Cup fixture at Solway Sharks on Saturday 15th September followed by a National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 clash at Nottingham Lions on Sunday 16th September.
Telford Tigers 12 Whitley Warriors 6
Solway Sharks 2 Sheffield Steeldogs 4
Sutton Sting 3 Hull Pirates 8
Hull Pirates 10 Sutton Sting 0
Sheffield Steeldogs 5 Telford Tigers 4 (after overtime)
Solihull Barons 11 Nottingham Lions 2
Blackburn Hawks 2 Solway Sharks 6
Billingham Stars 8 Murrayfield Racers 2
Images credit: Linda Crabtree