Match Report 15th December 2019
Ultimate Windows sponsored Billingham Stars were made to fight all the way for both National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 points against bottom-placed Nottingham Lions at the National Ice Centre on Sunday night, eventually securing the win by a 2-7 score line that was less comfortable than it looks.
Carrying on from last week’s thrilling third period against Solway Sharks, Billingham kept captain Michael Elder on the blue line and assembled a top line of Tomáš Rubeš, Chris Sykes and Jack Emerson with Callum Davies not available. Rubeš in particular looked hungry to get amongst the goals and it was he who got the first shot away in anger with a minute played only to find Lions netminder Joshua Crane well placed to make the save. It was Rubeš again in the fifth minute forcing the stop at the near post, but with the Stars dominating possession it was the home side who took a shock lead on 7.21 when Harry Hopkins was left alone in front of Mark Watson in the Billingham net to lift his backhand effort into the roof of the net with only their second shot of the game. The visitors continued to apply all the pressure in what was a free flowing game with few stoppages, but found Crane in excellent form as he turned away shot after shot. It took until the final minute for the Stars to find a way through, that man Rubeš rifling into the bottom corner to tie the game up on 19.02.
The second period flowed in much the same way, the hosts absorbing a good deal of pressure and Crane making the stops when called upon to keep Billingham at bay. Nottingham’s stubborn resistance had to break at some point however, and Rubeš was on hand to tap the puck in after a goalmouth scramble on 27.28 to move the Stars in front. The bit between their teeth, Billingham continued to press forward – James Moss had just had his effort turned away by Crane’s pad when Craig Thurston skated in front of the netminder and let his shot go on the turn, the puck finding the gap between skate and post to double the Teessiders’ advantage on 32.19. Rubeš had thoughts of his hat trick when he fired just over the bar in the 36th minute, but seconds later he turned provider with an inch-perfect pass to Moss for the one-timer at the far post to make it 1-4 on 36.06. If the Stars were starting to breathe a little easier, they had a wake-up call as Hopkins narrowed the deficit on the buzzer with a high shot past Watson’s glove on the power play to give the visitors food for thought as they headed for the dressing room.
Perhaps keen to put any thoughts of a Lions comeback to bed early, Billingham extended their lead within 36 seconds of the restart when Sykes forced home the fifth. Thurston found Daniel Šilar in the office for the one-time effort past the skate on 45.44 to make the game finally safe. The coaches making sure every member of the squad saw ice, Mark Turnbull replaced Watson between the pipes in the 49th minute. The Stars did not give up the hunt for more goals despite finding Nottingham as tough to beat as in the first twenty, eventually rewarded with a hat trick goal for Rubeš on 55.29 as he lurked on the far post, his marker assisted by Joe Walls who gained his first senior point.
Man-of-the-Match for Billingham was Tomáš Rubeš.
Harry Hopkins 2+0; Jack Crowston 0+2; Cameron Pywell 0+2
SOG: Joshua Crane 58 (16 / 22 / 20)
Tomáš Rubeš 3+1; Chris Sykes 1+3; James Moss 1+1; Craig Thurston 1+1; Daniel Šilar 1+0; Joe Walls 0+1; Dylan Hehir 0+1; Michael Bowman 0+1; Jack Emerson 0+1; Michael Elder 0+1
SOG: Mark Watson 16 (8 / 5 / 3); Mark Turnbull 3
Coach Stephen Foster gave plenty of credit to a hardworking opposing side who made his Stars battle for the points:
“We expected a fight down here, the coaches have got their team well drilled. They will certainly never give up and they came out for the third period as fresh as they did for the first. We had to make sure we stuck to our systems and our plan, and make sure we didn’t lapse into bad habits. We made some nice plays tonight and everyone put a good shift in, especially our younger lads who sometimes don’t get as much ice as the others, they are a credit to the junior system we have here in Billingham.”
Interviews with Stephen Foster and captain Michael Elder will be broadcast on BBC Tees Sport: Extra tomorrow evening between 7pm and 10pm.
Billingham face a tough weekend in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 with a trip to League leaders Solway Sharks on Saturday 21st December (face off 5pm) followed by the visit of local rivals Whitley Warriors to the Forum next Sunday 22nd December for a 6.30pm face off.
Sutton Sting 6 Nottingham Lions 1
Solway Sharks 12 Blackburn Hawks 2
Nottingham Lions 2 Billingham Stars 7