Weekend Report 5th-6th January 2019
Ultimate Windows sponsored Billingham Stars bounced back from a National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 mauling at the hands of Hull Pirates on Saturday by defeating Nottingham Lions at the Forum on Sunday evening.
The Stars suffered a blow before they even set off for Humberside on Saturday, import forward Kevin Boyd leaving the team with immediate effect to take up a job offer in his native Canada. Nevertheless a squad heavier on bodies than of late travelled, with a welcome return for Ross Hanlon. The home side are in a title race and got an unexpected shock when their visitors opened the scoring on 4.58, Josh Reynolds capitalising on a defensive error to break from his own blue line. His initial shot saved by Joseph Gent, Reynolds reacted quickly to tap home the rebound and give Billingham an unlikely lead. The Pirates did not take long to recover however as just 23 seconds later new signing Lubomir Korhon forced the puck under Stars’ netminder James Flavell’s skate on the wraparound to level the game. Billingham were making life difficult for their hosts and it took a fast three-on-one break to eventually edge Hull in front, Player/Coach Jason Hewitt finishing low to make it a one-goal game on 10.46. Despite some late pressure that saw Hull hit the bar and also miss an open goal, the score line remained close at the interval.
Stars’ second period woes struck once more as the floodgates opened in the middle session. James Archer skated across the crease to beat Flavell low down at his near post on 21.43, then a brace before the midpoint of the game dismantled the Teessiders resistance as first Hewitt and then Korhon bagged their second goals of the match. Aaron Lyon took a tripping penalty in the 32nd minute but even a man down the Pirates still looked dangerous and increased the lead to five on 34.09 when a quick break was finished by Sonny Karlsson. Less than three minutes later and Flavell was beaten again, Archer with his second from the left-hand face off circle. With less than a minute to go Korhon grabbed his hat trick when he glided past the floundering Billingham defence to take the score at the break to 8-1.
Another quick brace of goals in the first four minutes of the third period through Korhon and Archer brought up double figures for the home side and left the travelling fans fearing a cricket score, but to their credit Billingham fought back to try to restore some pride. With Thomas Brown replacing Flavell between the pipes, Craig Thurston and Chris Sykes saw chances saved by Gent whilst Brown denied Archer and Korhon before Hewitt eventually secured his hat trick on 54.47, Brown unlucky to concede after making three saves only to see the puck rebound out to the unmarked former Elite League forward. The Stars got some reward for an improved final session showing when they scored a consolation goal on 58.46, Michael Bowman finding a way past Gent from a tight angle to make the final score 11-2.
Man-of-the-Match for Billingham was Thomas Brown.
Lubomir Korhon 4+0; Jason Hewitt 3+3; James Archer 3+2; Sonny Karlsson 1+3; Lee Bonner 0+3; Lee Haywood 0+2; Chris Wilcox 0+2; James Chilcott 0+1; Sam Towner 0+1; Joseph Gent 0+1; Kevin Phillips 0+1; Jonathan Kirk 0+1
SOG: Joseph Gent 24 (5 / 10 / 9)
Josh Reynolds 1+0; Michael Bowman 1+0; Chris Sykes 0+1; Ethan Hehir 0+1; Craig Thurston 0+1
SOG: James Flavell 56 (25 / 24 / 7); Thomas Brown 12
The visit of bottom club Nottingham was a chance for the Stars to get back to winning ways, and so it proved. Callum Davies returned to the line-up, whilst James Hellens, Shaun Galloway and Dylan Hehir were absent on Under-18s duty. The Lions were missing several key players in Ruskin Hughes and Cameron Pywell, and with a full junior schedule themselves they were unable to ice as many youngsters as they might have done. The first period started in the same way as much of the game would be played, with Billingham applying almost constant pressure in the Nottingham end. Lions netminder Miles Finney saw action from very early on and kept the Stars at bay until 14.05 when Sykes finally broke the deadlock with a well-placed effort past the glove. Perhaps lacking in confidence in front of the net, the home side did not add to their tally until 18.24 when James Moss found Edgar Protčenko lurking at the near post, Finney believed he had the puck but it came loose and Protčenko potted it home.
Although still dominant, the Teessiders had to adapt their game plan in the middle session as Nottingham chose to play much of the period utilising a high man strategy in an attempt to catch their hosts on the break. Once they had tweaked their own system to suit, the Stars began peppering Finney once again and eventually moved further ahead on 29.37 with an Ethan Hehir shot from the point that flew straight through the young goaltender’s pads. Less than a minute later it was four, Sykes robbing the Nottingham defence of the puck on the blue line and going stick-side for his second. Their tails up, Billingham scored again on 32.34 with a bullet of a slapshot from Ben Davison on the point.
The home side comfortably home and dry, Brown again replaced Flavell in nets at the start of the third but he was caught cold with his first shot, his attempt to kick away Kieran Raynor’s speculative effort somehow going wrong and the puck sneaked past him for the Lions only goal of the game on 43.55. Billingham continued to rack up the shot count but the Nottingham defence – and Finney in particular – stood firm to give the visitors the consolation of a single-goal period win. 5-1 the final score, and a massive boost for the Stars as they look to some very important games over the next few weeks.
Man-of-the-Match for Billingham was Chris Sykes.
Chris Sykes 2+0; Edgar Protčenko 1+1; Ben Davison 1+0; Ethan Hehir 1+0; James Moss 0+1; Josh Reynolds 0+1; Andy Finn 0+1; Cain Taylor +; Ross Hanlon 0+1; Michael Elder 0+1; Tom Keeley 0+1
SOG: James Flavell 8 (5 / 3); Thomas Brown 6
Kieran Raynor 1+0
SOG: Miles Finney 72 (25 / 27 / 20)
Billingham Stars TV caught up with some of the main protagonists after Sunday's game:
Billingham have the luxury of just the one home game in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 next Sunday 13th January when the visitors to the Forum are Sutton Sting (face off 6.30pm).
Hull Pirates 11 Billingham Stars 2
Sheffield Steeldogs 5 Telford Tigers 0
Whitley Warriors 4 Blackburn Hawks 3
Solihull Barons 0 Sheffield Steeldogs 11
Telford Tigers 5 Hull Pirates 4 after overtime and penalty shots
Billingham Stars 5 Nottingham Lions 1
Blackburn Hawks 6 Murrayfield Racers 4
All images courtesy of Linda Crabtree.