Match Report 17th November 2019
Ultimate Windows sponsored Billingham Stars could not put together a sixty minute performance in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 on Sunday evening as they ran out of ideas and fell to a 6-2 defeat at Blackburn Hawks.
Billingham travelled to Lancashire without recent starter Mark Watson, electing to put young netminder Thomas Brown between the pipes. In a cagey opening twenty, both sides saw early chances go begging as Brown gave up an Aaron Davies rebound with barely a minute gone but no one was on hand to follow up, then just a minute later at the other end Michael Bowman slid his effort just wide. An error in the defensive zone let in Tom Revesz in the fourth minute but he was unable to capitalise. The Stars had a series of opportunities as the clock ticked towards the halfway point of the period, Chris Sykes shooting straight at Blackburn goaltender Harrison Walker, then Michael Elder and Craig Thurston went wide. The visitors thought they might get a breakthrough when Lee Pollitt was sent to the sinbin for slashing in the tenth minute, but on 10.24 Petr Valusiak broke with James Royds in support, the big Czech finding Royds cleanly who finished the move into an unguarded net. Billingham pushed hard for an equaliser, Thurston again going wide and Ben Davison finding Walker’s chest, before they finally tied things up on 13.17 when Thurston and James Moss combined to create the space for Daniel Silar to hold on and pick his spot. A further penalty on Valusiak went unpunished as the session ended level pegging.
The home side got off to the perfect start in the second period – on 23.12 the Stars defence looked static as James Riddoch was allowed to shoot through traffic to edge his side ahead. The lead was doubled on 27.34 when Brown lost the puck behind him and Royds got the final touch for his second of the game. Still Billingham were creating chances as Elder pinged the post in the 29th minute followed a minute later by Sykes forcing the smother from Walker. It came as little surprise when the visitors finally pulled one back on 31.17, Sykes taking it towards the net and floating the perfect pass for Tomáš Rubeš to finish. A late holding call on former Star Sam Warnock would mean that Billingham started the final stanza with a man advantage.
After a tight first forty, the Stars did not seem at the races for the third period. The power play squandered, a lapse at the back let in Davies who backhanded past Brown on 42.45. Just three minutes later a fortunate bounce put Davies alone in front of Brown and he had two chances to pot the puck home unchallenged to make it 5-2. The Hawks clearly more up for the fight, Billingham had no response and mustered just seven attempts on goal without ever troubling Walker. The closest they came was on 56 minutes dead when Rubeš fired just over the bar. A late decision to pull Brown in an attempt to get something out of the game backfired when Player/Coach James Neil fired into the empty net to give the hosts both points and left the Stars to ponder what went wrong.
Man-of-the-Match for Billingham was Craig Thurston.
James Royds 2+1; Aaron Davies 2+0; James Neil 1+3; James Riddoch 1+1; Petr Valusiak 0+3 ; Solomon Smith 0+1
SOG: Harrison Walker 31 (7 / 17 / 7)
Daniel Silar 1+0; Tomáš Rubeš 1+0; James Moss 0+1; Chris Sykes 0+1; Craig Thurston 0+1
SOG: Thomas Brown 32 (9 / 6 / 17)
Coach Stephen Foster blasted his side’s performance as ‘unacceptable’:
“From top to bottom we weren’t good enough tonight, we didn’t have the want and we had the look of a team who turned up just expecting to win without having to put the hard graft in to get it. The third period was the opposite of what we wanted – we had a power play at the start of the session, we wanted to get something from that. But there was no momentum going forward and our special play unit didn’t fire – these are the things that cost us.”
The Stars host Murrayfield Racers in a NIHL North Cup encounter next Saturday 23rd November at the Forum, 6pm the face off time.
Solihull Barons 4 Solway Sharks 1
Sutton Sting 6 Blackburn Hawks 5
Whitley Warriors 7 Solihull Barons 0
Blackburn Hawks 6 Billingham Stars 2
Nottingham Lions 2 Solway Sharks 11
Dundee Comets 3 Whitley Warriors 7
Images courtesy of Steve Pollitt