Match Report 29th December 2019
Ultimate Windows sponsored Billingham Stars suffered the ultimate humiliation of a derby day blanking as Whitley Warriors continued their pursuit of the National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 title with a 6-0 win at Hillheads on Sunday evening.
A familiar tale from before the puck had dropped for the Teessiders as they arrived at their nearest neighbours carrying just four regular defencemen and looking to their juniors to step up to the plate once more. The familiarity didn’t end there – the first period woes that have plagued the Stars in recent weeks played out yet again but in a much more painful way for Billingham and their travelling supporters as the Warriors surged forward from the opening face off and Ben Campbell had Stars netminder Mark Watson beaten with just 13 seconds on the clock. It quickly went from bad to worse as the visitors found themselves three behind with just 1.25 gone as first Niall Ryder and then Ross Douglass with a fabulous finish made sure it would be a long night ahead for a beleaguered Billingham outfit who looked like they had not come out of the dressing room. The Douglass goal prompted a Stars time out as coach Stephen Foster attempted to rally his troops, his words seemingly having some of the desired effect as Tomáš Rubeš registered a first shot on goal in the third minute. Whatever the game plan had been prior to face off, the strategy now became one of damage limitation as Billingham battled to restrict their opponents’ scoring chances. A misfiring special play unit did not help matters, the Stars handed three power play opportunities in the first session and failing to cause much trouble for the Whitley penalty kill as Warriors netminder Richie Lawson remained largely untested. Billingham had started to look more stable at the back at least until a swift counterattack following a Daniel Šilar effort led to Callum Watson opening up a four-goal lead in 13.51. The game over as a contest with three quarters of it left to play, the visitors attempted to restore some pride as Joe Walls and Rubeš both saw late chances turned away comfortably by Lawson.
A much tighter second stanza from the Stars frustrated the home side who could not find their way through the Billingham defence quite so easily, and when they did found Watson in much better form. The Stars may even have made a game of it, however their power play problems continued and despite a further two chances with the man advantage they could not work an opening and, when called upon, Lawson was equal to anything the Billingham forwards had to offer. A tripping minor against Michael Bowman – filling in at the back as he has done for some time – on the buzzer ensured the Stars would start the final period short-handed.
Having survived the penalty, Billingham could have fallen further behind on 42.32 but Whitley’s ‘goal’ was ruled out for a high stick. Warriors looked in the mood to add to their tally, Watson seeing more of the puck and being forced into ever more desperate saves to keep the score line respectable. The hosts were not to be denied however, Adam Finlinson forcing the puck under Watson on 45.53 after a defensive error had gifted Whitley possession. Another power play chance went begging past the halfway mark as Lawson bagged one of his easiest shutouts, and it was left to Callum Queenan to round out the scoring on 55.35 with a goal made simple for him by the lack of backchecking from the Stars forwards. The one positive from a Teesside point of view was the icing of all juniors on the bench as they continue to gain valuable experience that will benefit the club in the future.
Man-of-the-Match for Billingham was Joe Walls.
Adam Finlinson 1+1; Callum Queenan 1+1; Callum Watson 1+0; Ross Douglass 1+0; Niall Ryder 1+0; Ben Campbell 1+0; Anthony Wetherell 0+1; Phil Edgar 0+1; Rolands Gritans 0+1
SOG: Richie Lawson 27 (12 / 8 / 7)
SOG: Mark Watson 49 (14 / 14 / 21)
Coach Stephen Foster could not explain his side’s failure to come out firing:
“We spoke before the game and we said we can’t afford to let them get a jump on us, but the lads switched off from the beginning and we’re never going to win games from that position. We haven’t really connected at the other end either – we changed the forward lines slightly to give us more depth throughout the lines – but we didn’t create any good pressure. We’ve worked through a lot in training to eliminate these simple errors at the back but we’ve totally switched off once we get into a game environment.”
Sutton Sting are next up for the Stars in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 in Sheffield next Saturday 4th January, 7.30pm the face off time.
Whitley Warriors 6 Billingham Stars 0
Nottingham Lions 2 Solihull Barons 10
Images courtesy of Colin Lawson, IceHockeyMedia