Ultimate Windows sponsored Billingham Stars

Ultimate Windows sponsored Billingham Stars struggled to overcome a stubborn Murrayfield Racers outfit in their NIHL North Cup encounter at the Forum on Saturday evening, eventually getting a penalty shot win that guarantees them third place and a semi-final against local rivals Whitley Warriors.

It was clear from the first puck drop that the Racers had come to play, matching their opponents in all departments. There were early chances at both ends, James Moss finding Murrayfield netminder Craig Douglas’ skate at the far post in the third minute before Stars goaltender Thomas Brown tipped an Ethan Reid effort over the bar in the seventh minute. Craig Thurston finally opened the scoring on 11.28 when he beat the icing trap and tried to force it home at the near post, the puck bouncing unkindly off the back of Douglas’ skate and into the net. It took the Racers just over a minute to reply, Callum Boyd with a pretty finish to level things up, but on the 14-minute marker the home side edged ahead once more, some intricate interplay between Daniel Silar and Moss finished at the back stick by the in-form Moss.

The visitors got the jump on their hosts early in the middle session, Reid shooting straight through Brown on 21.04 after being given too much room by the Billingham defence. The back line didn’t cover themselves in glory for Murrayfield’s super-quick follow-up just 17 seconds later as Ross Borwick edged them ahead. The Stars younger players seeing plenty of ice time, Callum Wilkinson saw his attempted backhand smothered in the 27th minute, whilst Shaun Galloway was denied by Douglas just past the halfway mark. Chris Sykes got the final touch with Douglas scrambling to smother as the hosts equalised on the power play on 31.17, then just over a minute later the game swung back in their favour when Josh Reynolds got the tip on a Sykes point shot. The game looked to be heading Billingham’s way when Michael Elder finished from a tight angle in a move made by Tomáš Rubeš on 36.32.

Although the Stars had much of the possession in the early part of the final period, they could not find the killer blow and a patient Racers waited for their chance. It came with an interference call against Andy Finn in the 50th minute, Murrayfield capitalising on 49.48 when Lewis Gold backhanded past Brown to make it a one-goal game. Again the Stars saw plenty of puck and had chances to take the game away from their Scottish National League opposition, but their finishing was poor and Douglas dealt with everything thrown at him comfortably. The lack of knockout punch eventually cost the Teessiders as Sean Donaldson put away a short-handed equaliser with just four seconds remaining on the clock to take the game into overtime.

The five-minute sudden death period failed to separate the two sides and the game came down to a penalty shootout. Rubeš finished his third and the Stars’ sixth effort to put all the pressure on Racers’ Alex Christian, Brown saving at his near post to hand both points to the home side.

Man-of-the-Match for Billingham was Ben Davison.

Stars Stats:

James Moss 1+1; Chris Sykes 1+1; Tomáš Rubeš 1+1; Josh Reynolds 1+0; Michael Elder 1+0; Craig Thurston 1+0; Andy Finn 0+1; Michael Bowman 0+1; Shaun Galloway 0+1; Daniel Silar 0+1

SOG: Thomas Brown 40 (12 / 7 / 15 / 6)

Racers Stats:

Sean Donaldson 1+2; Callum Boyd 1+2; Ross Borwick 1+0; Lewis Gold 1+0; Ethan Reid 1+0; Rihards Grigors 0+2; Dean Walker 0+1; Liam Danskin 0+1; Alex Christian 0+1; Michael Ireland 0+1

SOG: Craig Douglas 48 (10 / 17 / 18 / 3)

Billingham Stars TV interviews:

Billingham are back in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 action next Sunday 1st December at the Forum when Sutton Sting are the visitors, face off 6.30pm.

 

Weekend Results:

NIHL(N)1:

Solihull Barons 13 Nottingham Lions 1

North Cup:

Billingham Stars 6 Murrayfield Racers 5 (after overtime and penalty shots)

Solway Sharks 13 Dundee Comets 0

Murrayfield Racers 7 Whitley Warriors 4

Dundee Comets 1 Solway Sharks 13

 

Images courtesy of Linda Crabtree