Match Report 4th January 2020
Ultimate Windows sponsored Billingham Stars continue to misfire as their National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 campaign took another downward turn on Saturday afternoon with an insipid defeat at nearest League rivals Sutton Sting.
Reduced to just four regular defencemen and without Player/Coach Michael Bowman, Billingham were forced to keep captain Michael Elder on the blue line and also gave shifts to Stuart Jackson and Joe Dowdle. Keen to make a better start than in recent weeks, the Stars came out hard and pressurised the home team in the early stages, Tomáš Rubeš picking out Callum Davies out front in the third minute but his top corner attempt was well saved by Sutton netminder Nick Winters. Craig Thurston saw his fifth minute effort blocked but from that point the hosts began to get themselves into their rhythm and a two-man break on 6.40 saw Adrian Palak pick out Sam Jones on the back stick who coolly lifted the puck over goaltender Mark Turnbull’s glove for the opener. Confidence an issue after a run of poor form, the visitors’ heads visibly dropped and just 22 seconds later the lead was doubled as a defensive error let in Ryan Johnson. In the tenth minute Dylan Hehir was sent to the box on a cross check minor, giving the Sting a chance to extend their lead and it was a chance they took as a comedic game of ‘it’s behind you’ saw the loose puck eventually fired home by Scott Morris. Billingham tried to rally and enjoyed another purple patch of possession but the quality of finish was not there and Winters dealt with anything thrown at him relatively comfortably.
A high stick penalty called against James Moss early in the second session was again punished, a slower shot from David Pyatt fooling Turnbull as he went down too early on 22.29. Finding themselves in yet another four-goal hole, the Stars tried to get themselves back into the game with efforts from Elder and Moss, but it took until 31.59 before they eventually registered their first goal when Chris Sykes beat the defence down the right wing and centred for Rubeš to one-time home. Soon after Dowdle took a punt from the point, Winters scooping to nullify the danger, and late on Daniel Šilar almost capitalised on a defensive mix-up but Billingham could not add anything further before the break.
The Stars started the final period in the same manner as the first, Moss, Davies and Thurston all forcing Winters into action but with no end result. James Hellens’ blue line effort into Winters’ lap forced an offensive zone face off, but Sutton produced a classic defence-to-offence move and Palak scored the goal of the game with a one-handed backhand into the bottom corner after getting round the Billingham defence too easily on 44.56. The visitors kept pressing and were eventually rewarded on 48.14 when Elder’s far post flick appeared to go in off Winters’ back to narrow the gap, but from that point the Stars hit penalty trouble and it was left to the home side to finish off the scoring with two power play markers within seven seconds in the 53rd minute as first Johnson squeezed one under Turnbull’s arm and then from the face off Palak fired crisply past Turnbull stick side. Billingham had no response and the Sting claimed both points in what was a flat performance from the Teessiders, lacking in energy and creativity.
Man-of-the-Match for the Stars was Dylan Hehir.
Adrian Palak 2+3; Ryan Johnson 2+1; Sam Jones 1+2; Scott Morris 1+1; David Pyatt 1+0; Lloyd Gibson 0+2; Josh Yeardley 0+2; Jamie Scott 0+1; Stanislav Lascek 0+1
SOG: Nick Winters 36 (11 / 14 / 11)
Michael Elder 1+0; Tomáš Rubeš 1+0; Chris Sykes 0+1; Ben Davison 0+1; Jack Emerson 0+1
SOG: Mark Turnbull 29 (11 / 8 / 10)
Coach Stephen Foster pointed at his side’s inability to defend as a five and abandoning their systems after another head-scratching defeat:
“We started off ok - until they scored we were the better team. But we let the goal deflate us, we started to get panicky on the puck again and we forgot the simple things and the systems we put in place to make sure we are more robust at the back. We seemed to go into our shells after they scored rather than trying to rebound which has cost us more goals also. We’ve left our goalie high and dry again tonight with odd-man breakaways and leaving men spare which we should not be doing in a five-on-five game.”
Billingham will travel to Solway Sharks next Saturday 11th January (face off 7pm) before hosting Nottingham Lions on Sunday 12th January (face off 6.30pm) in next weekend’s National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 schedule.
Sutton Sting 7 Billingham Stars 2
Solway Sharks 4 Solihull Barons 3
Sutton Sting 4 Solway Sharks 2
Whitley Warriors 11 Nottingham Lions 1