Match Report 6th October 2019
Ultimate Windows sponsored Billingham Stars could not match the intensity that saw them run local rivals Whitley Warriors so close last weekend as they fell to a disappointing 8-3 defeat in the repeat NIHL North Cup fixture on Tyneside on Sunday evening.
Once again the Stars found themselves short on defence as they arrived at Hillheads missing Darren Stattersfield, Tom Keeley, Ross Hanlon and Scott Cooper. With Sam Warnock making his debut for Blackburn Hawks, that left the Teessiders with just five blue liners. Five became four when Matthew Campbell left the game at the end of the first with a lower body injury.
Chasing their first Cup win Whitley were quick out of the blocks, Josh Maddock forcing the blocker save from Billingham netminder Mark Watson in the fourth minute. Ross Murray went close seconds later but it was Callum Watson who eventually opened the scoring when he held his marker off and found the bottom corner on the spin on 4.54. Struggling to get out of their defensive zone, the Stars eventually got a shot away in the eighth minute but captain Michael Elder shot high and wide. Ben Campbell and Callum Queenan looked particularly lively for the home side and both had chances to extend the lead, at the other end Billingham’s opportunities were fewer but the returning Chris Sykes did see his one-on-one effort deflected away by the pad of Warriors goaltender Richie Lawson in the 13th minute. Not long after Phil Edgar doubled the advantage on 12.49, then the hosts were gifted a power play with a contended delay the game call and Watson capitalised to bag his second of the game on 15.49 when he lifted the puck over his namesake from a solitary position out front.
Once again finding themselves in a three-goal hole, the Stars got themselves back into the game early in the second session when Daniel Silar got past the last defenceman and forced the puck between the post and Lawson’s arm on 21.29. Whitley were still dominating possession however and they restored the cushion on 27.13, captain Dean Holland firing between the pads with Billingham unable to clear their lines. James Moss and Jordan Barnes went toe-to-toe in the 29th minute when Moss took exception to a Barnes swipe at Ben Davison, both men incurring double minor penalties for fighting. The Stars had a gilt-edged chance to narrow the gap on 35.15 when they were awarded a penalty shot when Maddock brought down Silar, but the Czech forward could not convert as Lawson forced him too far wide. The Warriors made their guests pay for failing to take that chance, two late goals from the predatory Campbell putting the home side out of reach at 6-1 before the buzzer.
Billingham replaced Watson with former Whitley netminder Mark Turnbull at the start of the final session and gave themselves a glimmer of hope when Elder fired a laser shot past Lawson with less than a minute gone. Sykes set up Tomáš Rubeš for the tap-in on 47.56 to make the closing stages a little more interesting, but it would be Whitley with the final say, Edgar poking underneath Turnbull on 53.17 and then Harry Harley lifting into an empty net as Turnbull tried to dive on the loose puck during a scramble in front of his goal on 58.40.
Man-of-the-Match for the Stars was Chris Sykes.
Callum Watson 2+2; Ben Campbell 2+2; Phil Edgar 2+0; Dean Holland 1+5; Harry Harley 1+2; Callum Queenan 0+1; Ross Murray 0+1
SOG: Richie Lawson 34 (17 / 7 / 10)
Michael Elder 1+1; Tomáš Rubeš 1+1; Daniel Silar 1+0; Callum Davies 0+1; Chris Sykes 0+1
SOG: Mark Watson 44 (17 / 27); Mark Turnbull 22
Coach Stephen Foster recognises the need for his side to look after their defensive zone:
“We made things very difficult for ourselves early on – last week we managed to claw it back but we just have to be better defensively. Once we sort that out and the lads start looking after our own end then we’ll start winning games. The lads knew that Whitley would come out hard but they didn’t rise to the occasion.”
Billingham return to the Forum next Sunday 13th October to take on Blackburn Hawks in a National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 clash, face off 6.30pm.
Solway Sharks 4 Solihull Barons 3
Blackburn Hawks 2 Solihull Barons 10
Nottingham Lions 1 Sutton Sting 6
Whitley Warriors 8 Billingham Stars 3
Murrayfield Racers 3 Solway Sharks 4
Image credit: Colin Lawson, IceHockeyMedia