Match Report 1st December 2019
Ultimate Windows sponsored Billingham Stars’ defensive woes continue to dog their National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 campaign, mistakes at the back end contributing to a 5-8 home ice loss to Sutton Sting at the Forum on Sunday night.
A full-strength Sting outfit arrived on Teesside to take on a Billingham side missing the bulk of their junior contingent, the Under 18s with a game at Sheffield earlier in the afternoon. The coaches changed things around to balance out the forward lines, Cal Davies dropping to centre the third line. An all-action first twenty ensued, Tomáš Rubeš hitting his effort on the spin straight at Sutton netminder Nick Winters before a minute was up. An excellent release from Michael Bowman, who had reverted to defence to plug some gaps, set Chris Sykes on his way in the third minute but his backhand effort was easily dealt with by Winters. Lloyd Gibson found himself in the box on a high stick minor on three minutes and the Stars ere swift to punish, Sykes hanging on in front before finding Rubeš at the back stick for the tap-in on 4.03. Seconds later a stroke of ill fortune led to the equaliser, a broken stick letting in Scott Morris on 4.16, but a mere ten seconds after the restart the home side had nudged ahead once more as James Moss found Craig Thurston for the one-timer. The same pair combined again on 7.35 to double the lead, Moss out in front of the net finding Thurston lurking for the one-time effort into the corner. Again the Sting were quick to respond, a Tom Relf wide shot coming back off the boards for Cameron Glasby to sweep into a largely unguarded net on 8.52. The sides were playing four-on-four hockey when Relf tied things up on 14.34 with a shot past Billingham goaltender Thomas Brown’s stick. Despite further chances for the hosts to get themselves back in front the session ended all-square.
A loose pass in front of their own net was the Stars’ undoing on 22.53, Oliver Mitchell the grateful recipient as the visitors moved ahead for the first time. Sutton looked the hungrier of the two sides in the middle period, Adrian Palak and Stanislav Lascek both denied before Glasby bagged his second on 28.59 when he was allowed to skate in unopposed and rifle home bottom corner. A contested holding call against Ben Davison handed the guests another power play opportunity and they made it count, Brown well screened as a Relf effort found its way through traffic on 35.45. Setting themselves up for a chance of a comeback in the final session, captain Michael Elder narrowed the gap with 21 seconds to go, Rubeš doing all the hard work behind the net before finding Elder out front who had time to pick his spot high past Winters.
Mark Watson replaced Brown between the pipes for the third stanza, but he was beaten on 45.03 when Lascek poked the puck from under his glove. Ryan Johnson made the game safe for the visitors on 46.52 when he finished a two-on-one breakout. To their credit Billingham did not give up chasing the game but could not find the finish until 55.11 when Rubeš unleashed a bullet from the left wing that Winters had no chance with. The damage had already been done however and the game fizzled out as Sutton sat back, content to hold onto their three-goal cushion and two points that keeps them above the Stars in the table.
Man-of-the-Match for Billingham was Craig Thurston.
Craig Thurston 3+0; Tomáš Rubeš 1+1; Michael Elder 1+0; James Moss 0+2; Michael Bowman 0+2; Chris Sykes 0+1; Jack Emerson 0+1; Daniel Silar 0+1
SOG: Thomas Brown 26 (13 / 13); Mark Watson 25
Tom Relf 2+2; Cameron Glasby 2+0; Stanislav Lascek 1+3; Scott Morris 1+2; Ryan Johnson 1+1; Oliver Mitchell 1+0; David Pyatt 0+2; Craig Wallis 0+1; Charlie Saunders 0+1; Lloyd Gibson 0+1; Thomas Barry 0+1; Andrew Hirst 0+1
SOG: Nicholas Winters 47 (17 / 14 / 16)
Coach Stephen Foster conceded that defensively his side had ‘gone backwards’:
“We should be beating teams around us and particularly in our own barn. We leaked too many goals tonight from not massively dangerous situations, we’ve got to be better. We should have had another couple of goals in the first, but after that… we knew they would pressure us defensively but we shouldn’t be giving up odd-man rushes and our forwards have to get back more. We had been progressing and looking more solid in recent games but tonight we took a step back.”
The Stars host National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 leaders Solway Sharks at the Forum next Sunday 8th December in what is Billingham’s annual Christmas ‘Teddy Toss’ game, face off 6.30pm
Solihull Barons 9 Blackburn Hawks 2
Nottingham Lions 2 Whitley Warriors 13
Billingham Stars 5 Sutton Sting 8
Images courtesy of Linda Crabtree