Weekend Report 16th-17th March 2019
Ultimate Windows sponsored Billingham Stars signed off their National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 season in style with two overtime wins, including a seemingly impossible fightback to overcome a seven-goal deficit and a satisfying final game victory in the North East derby.
A remarkable Saturday started early for Billingham’s junior contingent as they took to the ice for an Under 18s fixture three hours before facing off against Sutton. The Stars were able to put out a stronger back line than recent weeks, but still fell behind on 8.51 when Brady Doxey was left alone to follow up a Steve Duncombe effort. Just less than two minutes later and the lead was doubled, Stanislav Lascek able to lift the puck over Billingham netminder James Flavell despite being off-balance. Sting looked in full control and duly made it three on 15.11, Doxey squaring to Dominic Martin for the one-timer into the roof of the net. The teams traded goals in the last 70 seconds of the session, Kieran Brown finding Craig Elliott with a lovely pass for Sutton’s fourth before Cain Taylor registered the Stars’ sole response when he rifled into the bottom corner.
Billingham found themselves in deeper trouble within a minute of the restart as two Sting players broke clear unopposed, Lascek waiting for Flavell to commit before slotting home. On the 22-minute mark it was 6-1, the Stars’ defence all at sea as Flavell was forced to defend his near post alone, but the loose puck came out to Charlie Saunders for a simple tap-in. A hammering looked on the cards on 25.47 as Billingham lost possession in their defensive zone and Elliott was on hand to poke home his second of the game. The visitors tried to get themselves back into the game but were finding Sutton’s goaltender Warren Gilfoyle in great form, the Stars outshooting their hosts in the period but still 7-1 down after 40 minutes.
It got worse just 16 seconds into the final session, Doxey holding off his marker and beating Flavell up high to put his side seven goals ahead. That should have been the game, but Billingham mounted what can only be described as a remarkable comeback. Edgar Protčenko got the ball rolling on 41.33 followed by a Matthew Campbell effort less than two minutes later that owed a good deal to a rare mistake by Gilfoyle. That little slice of luck seemed to give the Teessiders some self-belief and a nice pass from Craig Thurston set up Kristers Bormanis for the visitors’ third goal in less than three minutes. The Sting visibly flailing, Bormanis closed the gap further with a shot through Gilfoyle’s pads on 47.52 to prompt the home side to call a time out. The onslaught let up for a few minutes, but the Stars had the wind in their sails and Chris Sykes took it round Gilfoyle for 8-6 on 53.50. Sutton had only just returned to full strength when Sykes found Taylor out front for the one-timer on 56.44, then captain Michael Elder capitalised on a late clipping penalty against Lascek to level the scores with just 46 seconds left on the clock. Sudden-death overtime ensued, and with the momentum firmly with Billingham it came as little surprise when Thurston completed the unlikeliest of comebacks when he beat Gilfoyle stick-side just less than four minutes into the extra five, 8-9 the final score.
Man-of-the-Match for Billingham was Craig Thurston.
Stanislav Lascek 2+2; Brady Doxey 2+1; Craig Elliott 2+0; Dominic Martin 1+1; Charlie Saunders 1+0; Kieran Brown 0+5; Steve Duncombe 0+2; Scott Morris 0+2; Jordan Griffin 0+1; George Crawshaw 0+1; Oliver Mitchell 0+1
SOG: Warren Gilfolye 45 (9 / 13 / 22 / 1)
Cain Taylor 2+0; Kristers Bormanis 2+0; Chris Sykes 1+3; Craig Thurston 1+2; Edgar Protčenko 1+1; Michael Elder 1+1; Matthew Campbell 1+0; James Moss 0+3; Michael Bowman 0+3; Ethan Hehir 0+2; Ben Davison 0+1; Alex Preston 0+1
SOG: James Flavell 31 (14 / 7 / 9 / 1)
BigRedMachine Radio caught up with Terry Ward after that incredible comeback - tune in here.
Sunday’s final game against Whitley at a packed Forum saw Ethan Hehir playing two games once again as he arrived from his Under 20s fixture at Hillheads just minutes before face off. The game started at a blistering pace that rarely let up with chances at both ends, Flavell and opposite number Jordan Boyle kept busy between the pipes. Protčenko had just pinged the metalwork at one end when play switched and the Warriors got lucky with a rebound, Player/Coach David Longstaff on hand to pot home into an unguarded net for the opener on 11.38. The chances and a smattering of minor penalties continued to flow, but it was not until late in the period that the home side finally found the back of the net with two quick goals, Michael Bowman with a shot straight from a face off and Taylor with a tip-in with less than two minutes to go gave the hosts the lead going into the interval.
Sykes widened the gap whilst on the penalty kill on 21.08 when he blocked a shot at one end then broke on his own up the ice to unleash a laser that Boyle could only take into his own net. The Warriors took just three minutes to respond, Jordan Barnes roofing a loose puck. Just over the halfway mark the game was all square again, Callum Watson deflecting a Sam Zajac effort past Flavell, then Whitley moved ahead on 36.42 when Zajac got a goal of his own with a tap-in at the near post. Back came Billingham and the teams were level once more with 1.09 remaining on the period, Hehir breaking away and doing well to find Sykes who delayed his shot, Boyle lost the puck underneath himself and Sykes was able to poke it home.
A frantic final session yielded no goals but plenty of action at both ends for the capacity crowd to savour. Both sides had chance to win it, but with Flavell in particular in outstanding form, neither could find the finishing touch and for the second game of the weekend the tie went to sudden death overtime. The Stars seemed to have the momentum and had already had a few opportunities to seal the game when Sykes gathered the puck in the neutral zone and weighted his pass perfectly to the incoming Bormanis who one-timed past Boyle for the game winner and many happy Teesside hockey fans.
Man-of-the-Match for Billingham was Chris Sykes.
Chris Sykes 2+1; Michael Bowman 1+1; Cain Taylor 1+0; Kristers Bormanis 1+0; Edgar Protčenko 0+1; Ethan Hehir 0+1
SOG: James Flavell 68 (21 / 17 / 29 / 1)
Sam Zajac 1+1; Callum Watson 1+1; David Longstaff 1+1; Jordan Barnes 1+0; Ben Campbell 0+2; DJ Good 0+1; Shaun Kippin 0+1
SOG: Jordan Boyle 36 (11 / 12 / 10 / 1)
Speaking after Sunday’s game, the Stars’ Head Coach Tom Brown was delighted that his side had finally come good:
“It’s been a tough season but this weekend the boys managed to find what we’ve been looking for all year and come up with a couple of wins, I’m proud of them. The fans definitely got their money’s worth tonight, it was end-to-end and it could have gone either way. The noise when the winner went in was incredible and it was great for the guys to get that reaction.”
Billingham’s National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 campaign is now over. A new League format has already been confirmed for season 2019-2020, which will get underway in September.
Solihull Barons 4 Blackburn Hawks 7
Hull Pirates 6 Telford Tigers 3
Solway Sharks 3 Sheffield Steeldogs 8
Sutton Sting 8 Billingham Stars 9 after overtime
Blackburn Hawks 4 Solway Sharks 6
Sheffield Steeldogs 3 Hull Pirates 8
Telford Tigers 9 Solihull Barons 3
Billingham Stars 5 Whitley Warriors 4 after overtime
Nottingham Lions 1 Sutton Sting 6
Images courtesy of Linda Crabtree