Ultimate Windows sponsored Billingham Stars

Ultimate Windows sponsored Billingham Stars bagged three of the four points on offer this weekend as they went down in overtime to Sutton Sting in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 on Saturday night before closing out an altogether more comfortable North Cup win at Murrayfield Racers on Sunday.

Billingham arrived at IceSheffield for their League clash with Sutton missing first line centre Cal Davies, Chris Sykes taking his place in the starting line-up. Young netminder Tom Brown, missing from recent games, was the pick between the pipes. An end-to-end start saw both sides trade chances, Daniel Silar shooting high and wide after a minute of play, then Stanislav Lascek hit the post for the home side. The game wide open, it was the Stars who made the breakthrough on 4.17 when Craig Thurston fed Silar for a laser of a shot that was past goaltender Nick Winters before he could react. From that point however Sutton began to assert themselves on the game, the equaliser coming from Adrian Palak rounding Brown on 9.31. Lloyd Gibson had an opportunity to nose the hosts ahead in the 14th minute but they had to wait until 17.36 to get the goal their superior play deserved, Brown making an initial kick save but the puck came out to Scott Morris whose effort crept inside the near post. Eight seconds from the buzzer Charlie Saunders was allowed time and space to pick his spot and the period closed with the home side two goals to the good.

A defensive mix-up put the Stars in trouble on 26.18, Lascek left free at the back stick to convert. Billingham were having no luck in front of goal as Michael Elder, Silar and Lewis Crisp all squandered chances to close the gap. Eventually they were made to pay as Palak made the Stars defence look static before sliding the puck through Brown's skates. Four goals down, Billingham needed to respond before the break and they bagged two late goals - on 36.45 Silar found Thurston for the one timer. Then the Stars got a late power play opportunity when Tyler Nixon was despatched for roughing and in a rehearsed move, James Moss found the far corner from a tight angle.

In an effort to claw back the deficit, Billingham switched things around for the third and replaced Sykes on the first line with Jack Emerson. Although the visitors were looking livelier, the Sting increased their advantage once again on 47.17 when Lascek was allowed to walk into the danger zone and beat Brown through the pads. Billingham's response was almost immediate, Tomáš Rubeš finding the roof of Winters' net on 47.50. The Stars piled on the pressure but efforts from Ben Davison, Sykes and Dylan Hehir all went begging before Palak seemingly made the game safe with a shot past Brown's stick on 54.13. Moss replied on 56.53 when he slid his effort past Winters’ outstretched leg but going into the last minute Billingham were still two goals behind. A big slash on the stick of Tom Keeley put Palak in the box and on 59.13 Sykes made it a one-goal game with a wrist shot from just inside the blue line. A delayed penalty on the play kept the Stars on the power play and Rubeš completed the comeback, tying the game on 59.36 after a scramble in front of the Sutton net. The match heading for overtime, Moss took a five-minute major for an accidental high stick with just six seconds remaining, meaning Billingham would have to play out the extra session short-handed. As it happened, the Sting needed just 13 seconds of overtime to win the game, Palak with the one time effort to seal an 8-7 victory.

Man-of-the-Match for the Stars was Jack Emerson.

Sting Stats:

Adrian Palak 4+2; Stanislav Lascek 2+0; Scott Morris 1+1; Charlie Saunders 1+1; Sam Jones 0+3; David Pyatt 0+2; Tom Relf 0+1; Lloyd Gibson 0+1; Jamie Scott 0+1; Josh Yeardley 0+1

SOG: Nicholas Winters 37 (10 / 11 / 16 / 0)

Stars Stats:

James Moss 2+2; Tomáš Rubeš 2+1; Daniel Silar 1+2; Craig Thurston 1+2; Chris Sykes 1+1; Michael Elder 0+2; Ben Davison 0+1; Jack Emerson 0+1

SOG: Thomas Brown 32 (12 / 9 / 10 / 1)

 

In Scotland on Sunday evening, the Stars welcomed back Davies who took his regular slot on the first line but had to do without the unavailable Darren Stattersfield. The visitors looked to get at their hosts from the first drop of the puck, and were handed an early power play opportunity when Lewis Gold was called for a high stick offence on Silar with just 1.15 gone. Murrayfield's woes increased when Callum Boyd joined Gold in the sinbin on 2.45. Billingham capitalised with just ten seconds remaining on the two-man advantage, Davies behind the net finding the incoming Elder for the one-timer past netminder Mark McGill. The Stars continued to apply the pressure and were rewarded on 6.42 when Silar fed Thurston who had too much pace for the Racers defence as he created the space to fire past McGill. Billingham survived a five-on-three situation of their own, but it swung the momentum the way of the home side and on 12.10 the Stars failure to clear their lines was punished as Boyd slotted through netminder Mark Watson's pads. Billingham had yet another five-not-three to kill at the end of the period but they protected their zone well and the Racers were unable to add to their tally.

The Stars started the second session as they began the first, Moss pinging the crossbar with just over a minute played. Murrayfield unable to deal with their guests' greater speed going forward, Silar got the go-ahead goal on 22.11 when he finished a well-worked one-two with Moss. Racers hit some penalty trouble but despite controlling the special play situations the Stars were unable to find a way past McGill. It wasn't until the hosts returned to full strength that Billingham finally broke their resistance, Elder firing in a tight angle shot that came off McGill's back on 31.05. This fourth goal prompted a timeout from the Murrayfield bench in an attempt to find a way back into the game, however the Stars were in full control and restricted the Scottish National League outfit to hopeful punts at goal from distance.

Two strong period starts became three when Moss finished some excellent stick handling with a backhand effort over a prone McGill on 40.58. Racers managed a consolation on 46.58 when captain Joel Gautschi potted home a rebound on the power play, but the Stars had the last word as Moss converted from close in when McGill dropped and lost sight of the puck on 56.46, 2-6 the final score.

Man-of-the-Match for Billingham was Mark Watson.

Racers Stats:

Joel Gautschi 1+1; Callum Boyd 1+0; Liam Danskin 0+1

SOG: Mark McGill 28 (12 / 10 / 6)

Stars Stats:

James Moss 2+2; Michael Elder 2+1; Daniel Silar 1+2; Craig Thurston 1+2; Scott Cooper 0+1; Callum Davies 0+1; Chris Sykes 0+1

SOG: Mark Watson 31 (11 / 8 / 12)

 

Speaking after Sunday’s game, Coach Stephen Foster praised his side for their control of the Cup fixture:

“Murrayfield have done well recently when you look at their results against Solway so we knew we would have to come with our A-game. We had to dig in deep at times – we played a slightly different system tonight in our defensive zone and it seemed to pay off. We’ve learned from our mistakes, not relied on our forwards to get us out of trouble tonight and we controlled our own zone. Last night we had to come back from four goals down which shows great character but it’s not the position we want to play from.”

Billingham travel to Nottingham Lions for a National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 fixture on Sunday 27th October, face off 5.40pm.

 

Weekend Results:

NIHL(N)1:

Sutton Sting 8 Billingham Stars 7 (after overtime)

Blackburn Hawks 0 Solway Sharks 4

North Cup:

Solway Sharks 5 Murrayfield Racers 4

Whitley Warriors 11 Dundee Comets 4

Murrayfield Racers 2 Billingham Stars 6

 

Image credit: Ian Coyle