Ultimate Windows sponsored Billingham Stars

Ultimate Windows sponsored Billingham Stars had to be satisfied with just two of their target of four points from their National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 fixtures at the weekend as they failed to follow up a much-needed road win at Solihull Barons on Saturday when they were defeated on home ice by Blackburn Hawks on Sunday.

Stars travelled to the Midlands on Saturday with new Latvian import Kristers Bormanis, plus another new signing in defenceman Sam Warnock. The first period saw both sides feeling each other out, the pressure of points being felt as the two teams looked to get the upper hand. The deadlock was broken just past the session’s halfway mark: with the teams playing four-on-four, Craig Thurston lifted the puck over Barons netminder Sam Hewitt for the only goal of the first twenty.

If the first period was cautious, the second was even more cagey as both sides sought to shut each other down. The shots on goal totals for the period are misleading – despite the two netminders facing more shots in this middle stanza, the quality was lacking and neither side stretched the twine, the score remaining at 0-1.

Something had to give in the final session, and so it proved as the home side got off to a perfect start, Elliott Farrell squaring to Matthew Maurice on the back stick on 43.06. The Barons did not help their own cause and found themselves two men down in the 49th minute, a situation the Stars took full advantage of as Edgar Protčenko smashed home a rocket of a shot seconds before the halfway mark. The hosts forced to push up, Bormanis bagged his debut goal on 55.32 as Billingham carved their way through the Solihull defence. Macauley Heywood pushed the puck under Stars netminder James Flavell for what proved to be a consolation effort only on 57.14 as the visitors hung on for a vital win.

Man-of-the-Match for the Stars was James Flavell.

Barons Stats:

Matthew Maurice 1+1; Macaulay Heywood 1+0; David Rogers 0+1; Andrew Whitehouse 0+1; Elliot Farrell 0+1

SOG: Sam Hewitt 37 (9 / 15 / 13)

Stars Stats:

Edgar Protčenko 1+1; Craig Thurston 1+1; Kristers Bormanis 1+0; Chris Sykes 0+2; James Moss 0+1; Michael Elder 0+1

SOG: James Flavell 34 (9 / 17 / 8)

Blackburn arrived on Teesside on Sunday with a new man of their own in Robin Kovar, and it was he who got away the first shot in just 11 seconds when he forced a kick save from Flavell. The Stars made the early running however, Bormanis seeing a shot deflected just past the far post within the first two minutes. They were rewarded with the opening goal in somewhat fortuitous fashion on 4.12, Chris Sykes stealing the puck on the blue line and surging forward, but ultimately his effort was kicked into the net accidentally by Jack Murray. Looking to capitalise further, Thurston hit the post in the sixth minute then seconds later Michael Elder roofed what appeared to be a perfectly good goal however referee Andrew Miller waved his effort off as netminder Niks Trapans had dislodged his goal from its moorings. Not having any luck at all now in front of the net, both Protčenko and Bormanis saw chances go just wide and James Moss put his effort straight at Trapans as the home side piled on the pressure. Ultimately their efforts were in vain as the Hawks tied things up on 13.26, Flavell unable to hold onto an Aaron Davies flick with Billingham a man down. Less than two minutes later Blackburn had turned the game on its head, Peta Valusiak breaking quickly down the left wing before setting up Davies for the one timer and his second of the game. The home side were handed a long power play on 16.02 as Ross Kennedy was despatched on a five-minute major for spearing, but the Stars could not capitalise before the interval.

The game restarted with the sides playing four-on-four, Moss handed a two minute minor at the end of the first for leaving the penalty bench too early. Matt Viney made it another power play two minutes in with a holding the stick penalty and Billingham tried desperately to get back on level terms, Sykes and Protčenko both with shots straight at Trapans. The Hawks turn to have the man advantage, Thurston and Elder both had chances on the break but were denied by Trapans. Again despite all the pressure, the hosts found themselves further behind on 28.05 as Viney hit the top corner from the right hand side. The Stars finding the body with just about every shot, it was left to Murray to atone for his earlier error when he fired straight through Flavell from the face off on 37.51 to give the visitors a comfortable lead going into the break.

Billingham needed to get something back early, and they got the break they were looking for on 45.30 through Sykes free out front to shoot high past Trapans’ glove. Their hard work was undone less than four minutes later however, Valusiak allowed to drift into the danger zone and squeak his effort past Flavell to open up the gap once more. A few late penalties failed to deliver any meaningful chance for the hosts, Ethan Hehir going closest when he hit the post in the 56th minute. Back at even strength, Andy Finn hit the crossbar in the 58th minute but the luck continued to elude the Teessiders and the final word went to Blackburn as Valusiak found the five hole with 35 seconds to go to wrap up a 2-6 victory.

Man-of-the-Match for the Stars was Ethan Hehir.

Stars Stats:

Chris Sykes 2+0; Ethan Hehir 0+1; Craig Thurston 0+1

SOG: James Flavell 33 (10 / 14 / 9)

Hawks Stats:

Peta Valusiak 2+3; Aaron Davies 2+0; Jack Murray 1+0; Matt Viney 1+0; Craig Lutkevitch 0+1; Luke Boothroyd 0+1; James Riddoch 0+1; Robin Kovar 0+1; Ross Kennedy 0+1; Lee Pollitt 0+1

SOG: Niks Trapans 36 (9 / 13 / 14)

Billingham Stars TV got all the post-match reaction:

The Stars have the luxury of just one National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 fixture next weekend, Hull Pirates the visitors to the Forum next Sunday 27th January (face off 6.30pm).

 

Weekend Results:

NIHL(N)1:

Solihull Barons 2 Billingham Stars 3

Blackburn Hawks 5 Sheffield Steeldogs 6

Solway Sharks 3 Telford Tigers 7

Sutton Sting 5 Hull Pirates 9

Whitley Warriors 8 Solihull Barons 5

Hull Pirates 14 Nottingham Lions 2

Telford Tigers 6 Solway Sharks 5

Billingham Stars 2 Blackburn Hawks 6

North Cup:

Murrayfield Racers 4 Sheffield Steeldogs 1

 

Images: Solihull - Keith & Jenny Davies; Blackburn - Linda Crabtree