Weekend Report 9th-10th February 2019
Ultimate Windows sponsored Billingham Stars came up short against National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1’s top two this weekend, but earned plenty of praise for their hard-working performances in both games.
Table-topping Telford came to the Forum on Saturday with a full bench in search of vital points to keep their noses in front of Sheffield and Hull. It was the Stars who were first to trouble either netminder however, a third-minute loose puck falling to James Moss at the far post, but he did not realise the simplicity of the tap-in that presented itself and eventually his effort went wide. Adam Taylor was the man causing the early problems for the opposition, Billingham netminder James Flavell denying him twice before the seven-minute mark. The hosts did not appear fazed by their illustrious guests, Craig Thurston going just wide before Kristers Bormanis attempted to go for the five-hole as the clock ticked towards the midpoint of the opening session. Michael Elder and Matthew Campbell both brought saves from Tigers goaltender Thomas Hovell before the deadlock was finally broken on 15.07, Bormanis with the low shot to give the home side an unexpected lead going into the break.
Billingham expected a response and it came within four minutes of the restart, Jason Silverthorn seeing his effort come off Flavell’s back and in for the equaliser. Michael Bowman found himself in the sinbin on a slashing call a minute later, but the hosts provided another shock when Thurston stole the puck from a face off and broke clear to beat Hovell low down. The short-handed marker appeared to stir Telford and they took control of the game with three goals in 24 seconds just before the game’s halfway point – first Scott McKenzie went high to beat Flavell, then Andrew McKinney tapped home at the near post. McKinney’s wrist shot gave him two goals in eight seconds to turn the game on its head. McKinney bagged his hat trick on 31.58 with a shot high past Flavell’s glove. The Stars could have been forgiven for crumbling at this point but they fought back, Bormanis hitting the post in the 34th minute. The final word on the period went to the Tigers however, Jonathan Weaver slapping home with ten seconds remaining before the buzzer.
A mighty effort from the home side kept the League leaders pegged back in the final twenty as Billingham looked to keep the score down. Restricting chances in their own end, the Stars had a few opportunities to close the gap through Alex Preston and Thurston, conceding just a single goal on 57.40 when Silverthorn poked home at the near post to make the final score 2-7.
Man-of-the-Match for Billingham was James Flavell.
Kristers Bormanis 1+0; Craig Thurston 1+0; Ethan Hehir 0+1; Matthew Campbell 0+1
SOG: James Flavell 53 (18 / 23 / 12)
Andrew McKinney 3+1; Jason Silverthorn 2+3; Jonathan Weaver 1+1; Scott McKenzie 1+1; Rick Plant 0+2; Doug Clarkson 0+2; Joe Hazeldine 0+1; Jack Watkins 0+1
SOG: Thomas Hovell 28 (11 / 11 / 6)
The Stars travelled to Sheffield on Sunday to face a full-strength Steeldogs outfit with a young and depleted squad, 15 skaters comprising five under-18s. In Michael Elder’s absence, Shaun Galloway started on the first line and Chris Sykes assumed the captain’s role. The visitors had to absorb a lot of pressure in the opening exchanges as Sheffield sought an early advantage, Milan Kolena hitting the bar in the seventh minute before drawing the save from Flavell seconds later. Billingham’s thin squad was reduced further on nine minutes as Thurston went off with a lower body injury and did not return to the game. Flavell continued to keep the hosts at bay until 15.13 when Steeldogs finally found a way through, a Duncan Speirs rebound roofed by Nathan Salem for the opener and only goal of the period as the Stars worked hard to keep their opponents out.
The hard work continued in the second session, some players having to double and triple shift to fill the gaps in the lines, and Sheffield struggled to make inroads. Again Billingham soaked up a lot of pressure and stunned the home side with the equaliser on 27.04, Sykes delaying his shot long enough to pick his spot in the top corner. Steeldogs piled forward and got their noses back in front just after the midway point, Flavell making the initial kick save from Salem but Andrew Hirst was on hand to tap home at the near post. The Stars did not give up the chase and frustrated their opponents time and again, Tom Relf and Ashley Calvert both denied by Flavell before the period ended.
Inevitably perhaps the tired legs started to play their part in the final period, and for all their efforts Billingham could not contain the second-placed Steeldogs. James Spurr had time to pick his spot on 43.17 after a long shift for the Stars defence. Ethan Hehir had a half-chance to narrow the gap a few minutes later but he couldn’t quite get hold of the puck when it came loose in front of the net. Tim Smith hit the bar again for the home side in the 49th minute, but on the 50-minute mark the lead was extended when Salem passed across the net to Speirs for the one timer at the back stick. Alex Graham rounded out the scoring a minute later, Sheffield 5-1 victors but the plaudits to a young, inexperienced Billingham side who put in a sterling effort to contain a side fighting for the title for much of the game.
Man-of-the-Match for the Stars was Ethan Hehir.
Duncan Speirs 1+2; Nathan Salem 1+2; James Spurr 1+1; Andrew Hirst 1+1; Alex Graham 1+0; Milan Kolena 0+2; Tim Smith 0+1; Ashley Calvert 0+1
SOG: Brandon Stones 27 (10 / 7 / 10)
Chris Sykes 1+0; Ethan Hehir 0+1; Shaun Galloway 0+1
SOG: James Flavell 55 (15 / 19 / 21)
Speaking after Sunday’s game, Billingham Head Coach Tom Brown hailed two hard-working displays from his side:
“Just the same as last night, the kids came out and everyone has put in a big effort, they answered the call. We were understaffed tonight, almost half a team missing, so for the guys to come out and play the way they did was spot-on. We could have given our Man-of-the-Match award to any of our guys tonight, and that’s how well we played.”
Billingham will face Solway Sharks twice in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 next weekend, a trip to Dumfries on Saturday 16th February (face off 7pm) followed by the return fixture at the Forum on Sunday 17th February (face off 6.30pm).
Sutton Sting 9 Nottingham Lions 0
Billingham Stars 2 Telford Tigers 7
Hull Pirates 15 Blackburn Hawks 3
Sheffield Steeldogs 9 Solihull Barons 0
Whitley Warriors 3 Hull Pirates 11
Sheffield Steeldogs 5 Billingham Stars 1
Solihull Barons 5 Sutton Sting 0
Telford Tigers 8 Solway Sharks 2
Nottingham Lions 1 Blackburn Hawks 7
All images courtesy of Colin Edwards Photography