Ultimate Windows sponsored Billingham Stars

Ultimate Windows sponsored Billingham Stars battled with a short bench for their double date with Solway Sharks in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 over the weekend, but ultimately could not stop the Scots taking all four points.

A very short bench of just 14 skaters made the journey to Dumfries on Saturday evening, with four juniors amongst the depleted squad. The home side took control of the early stages, Stars netminder James Flavell pushing away a first-minute Iain Bowie effort with his elbow. The pressure told eventually, Slovakian forward Peter Gápa getting the better of his marker and slotting home low on 3.56. Against the run of play, Billingham responded immediately from the restart, James Moss getting the visitors on the board just seven seconds later. A hockey version of chess then ensued as both sides attempted to work out a way past their opponents, quality chances rare. Kristers Bormanis troubled Sharks goaltender Kyle Johnston on the backhand as the clock ticked past 13 minutes gone, but just seconds later the puck was at the other end and Bowie squeezed one past Flavell to edge the hosts ahead. The Stars undaunted, they had the better of the closing minutes and indeed might have pulled level but for Johnston making two great saves in the 15th minute.

Billingham drew level just 19 seconds after the restart as Bormanis finally got the better of Johnston, but Solway were back in front less than a minute later, Bowie again the man to push his side ahead. Edgar Protčenko fell foul of the officials when he picked up an interference call in the 25th minute, the Sharks taking full advantage on 26.51 when Steven Moore tapped in at the far post. It was the home side’s turn to occupy the sinbin just before the 35-minute mark, but they survived the two-minute power play and went on a swift counterattack on returning to full strength, Joe Coulter extending the lead on 37.39 to give Solway a three-goal cushion going into the break.

Again the Stars were on the mark early in the final session, Chris Sykes tapping in the rebound to narrow the gap on 41.07. The visitors were looking to make further inroads into the lead but the game-changing moment came on 47.14 when Protčenko was controversially handed a five-minute major for cross-checking, giving Billingham a long penalty kill and also depriving them of their second import Bormanis for the duration. James Hutchinson scored within the first minute of the power play with a high shot past Flavell’s stick, then less than two minutes later Richard Bentham saw his effort trickle over the line to make it seven. The Sharks rounded out the penalty with a third power play goal from Kyle Horne, Flavell screened and unable to track the puck on 51.05. Bormanis bagged a consolation on 54.03, but the last word went to the hosts as Bentham one-timed home from out front with just over two minutes remaining, 9-4 the final score.

Man-of-the-Match for Billingham was Kristers Bormanis.

Sharks Stats:

Iain Bowie 2+1; Richard Bentham 2+0; Kyle Horne 1+2; Joe Coulter 1+2; Peter Gápa 1+1; Steven Moore 1+1; James Hutchinson 1+0; Lewis Baldwin 0+3; Connor Henderson 0+2; Scott Henderson 0+2; Josh Grieveson 0+1; Stuart Kerr 0+1; Cale Tanaka 0+1

SOG: Kyle Johnston 31 (10 / 12 / 9)

Stars Stats:

Kristers Bormanis 2+1; James Moss 1+1; Chris Sykes 1+0; Dylan Hehir 0+1; Ethan Hehir 0+1; Shaun Galloway 0+1; Alex Preston 0+1

SOG: James Flavell 44 (12 / 16 / 16)

There was no respite back on Teesside the following evening as yet another short Billingham bench took to the ice, Callum Reynolds replacing James Flavell between the pipes for his first game of the season the only change. By contrast Solway travelled well and started where they left off with the opening goal after just 1.25, Bowie the man to chalk his name on the scoresheet. Reynolds did not let the early setback faze him and he settled into the game with an excellent near post stop to deny Scott Henderson. Ethan Hehir tested Johnston just past the seven-minute mark but the Sharks were quick to turn defence into attack and Gápa found the smallest of gaps from a tight angle to double the lead on 7.12. The Stars needed a response and they got it less than two minutes later when Bormanis broke up the left wing and dropped his pass to the incoming Moss who’s wrist shot bulged the twine behind Johnston. Moss looking hungry for more, he tied the game up on 11.22 with some clever stick-handling in front of Johnston before slotting around him. The period ended on a slightly sour note as Scott Henderson went for an early shower on a high-sticking major, Protčenko left holding his face after being caught.

Billingham looked to make the breakthrough early in the middle session, Shaun Galloway grazing the post before Moore was called for tripping on Bormanis. The penalty was just seconds old when Sykes blasted home low from the blue line to give the home side the lead for the first time on 23.35. In a seesaw opening the game was back level on 24.10, Gápa potting home after a scramble in front of Reynolds’ net. Both sides tightened up and it wasn’t until 32.25 that Sykes edged the hosts in front once more, rounding Johnston. Once again the visitors responded immediately, Gápa scoring an almost carbon-copy of Sykes’ goal at the other end 27 seconds later. Tom Keeley took a holding penalty in the 33rd minute, and Bowie’s power play effort just past the 35-minute marker signalled a late Solway onslaught as they bagged another power play marker through Cale Tanaka, then Moore threw his stick at a loose puck for number seven and finally Gápa tapped home his fourth in the final minute of the period and the Sharks took the game away from the hosts with four goals in as many minutes.

Reynolds was on hand to keep out Ross Murray as Solway looked to put the Stars to the sword early in the final session, but it was Alex Preston who clawed one back on 51.54 with a speculative effort from the far left that flew past Johnston’s glove. Moore responded with a nice finish into the bottom corner four minutes later to round off the scoring, but the action wasn’t over as the final minute saw Bormanis despatched on a slashing major, Sharks captain Struan Tonnar perhaps fortunate not to get the same treatment as he dashed the length of the ice to retaliate with punches to an unwilling opponent. 5-9 the final score, a close game but for five minutes of madness for Billingham at the end of the second period.

Man-of-the-Match for the Stars was Dylan Hehir.

Stars Stats:

James Moss 2+1; Chris Sykes 2+0; Alex Preston 1+0; Kristers Bormanis 0+2; Dylan Hehir 0+1; Ethan Hehir 0+1

SOG: Callum Reynolds 51 (20 / 15 / 16)

Sharks Stats:

Peter Gápa 4+2; Steven Moore 2+2; Iain Bowie 2+1; Cale Tanaka 1+2; Ross Murray 0+3; Kyle Horne 0+2; Joe Coulter 0+2; Lewis Baldwin 0+1; Connor Henderson 0+1; Ross Hancock 0+1

SOG: Kyle Johnston 35 (13 / 11 / 11)

Billingham Stars TV grabbed some interviews after the game:

Billingham are in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 action twice again next weekend as they host Sheffield Steeldogs on Saturday 23rd February (face off 6pm) before travelling to Blackburn Hawks on Sunday 24th February (face off 5.30pm).


Weekend Results:


Solway Sharks 9 Billingham Stars 4

Telford Tigers 7 Hull Pirates 10

Blackburn Hawks 2 Whitley Warriors 7

Hull Pirates 4 Telford Tigers 5 (after overtime)

Billingham Stars 5 Solway Sharks 9

Nottingham Lions 1 Sheffield Steeldogs 9


Images courtesy of Linda Crabtree