Weekend Report 11th-12th January 2020
Ultimate Windows sponsored Billingham Stars saw a much improved National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 weekend yield two valuable points as they finally started to gel as a team against Solway Sharks and Nottingham Lions.
A bolstered Billingham side travelled to Dumfries on Saturday night as Andy Finn, Darren Stattersfield and Tom Keeley all returned to the blue line, freeing up Michael Elder and Michael Bowman to resume their usual positions up front. The coaches chose to mix up the lines one again to find combinations that would cause their table-topping opponents some trouble, but they were on the back foot from early on as Scott Henderson opened the scoring on 3.11 with a crisp finish after Peter Gápa had kept the puck in the zone. To their credit the Stars bounced back and dominated play, finally getting their reward on 19.17 when Tomáš Rubeš blasted home from an offensive zone face off just seconds after he had failed with a penalty shot opportunity.
It was a similar story in the second session with Billingham enjoying long spells of pressure, but seemingly having left their shooting sticks at home as Sharks netminder Gary Russell dealt with everything that came his way. Hit on the counterattack, Henderson fired home his second on 24.51 then two quick goals from Ewan Anderson and Kieran Hair in the 28th minute moved the home side into a comfortable lead.
Unlike recent weeks, the Stars kept their heads up but the last period produced much of the same for the visitors as they heavily outshot their hosts but simply could not find a way through. As Russell kept Billingham at bay it was left to Jaakko Heiskanen to close out the scoring with a one timer at the back stick on 52.41 for a 5-1 final score that more than flattered the home side, the Stars left to rue many missed opportunities.
Man-of-the-Match for Billingham was Tomáš Rubeš.
Scott Henderson 2+1; Ewan Anderson 1+0; Jaakko Heiskanen 1+0; Kieran Hair 1+0; Ruairi Lockerbie 0+2; Peter Gápa 0+2; Iain Bowie 0+1; Gordon Horne 0+1
SOG: Gary Russell 49 (17 / 14 / 18)
Tomáš Rubeš 1+0; Craig Thurston 0+1
SOG: Thomas Brown 30 (12 / 7 / 11)
On Sunday back at the Forum Billingham rolled four lines from the start against basement side Nottingham Lions and found the scoring touch that had been missing the previous evening in fine style. Elder opened the floodgates on 4.16 when he drifted in and picked his spot past Lions netminder Dean Bowater, the second coming just 96 seconds later when Bowater lost the puck and Callum Wilkinson was on hand to help it over the line. It was 3-0 on 7.37, Callum Davies in the corner picking out Elder who fired home low. The relentless pressure bore two late power play goals as first Rubeš on 16.39 and then James Moss picking up a rebound on 18.24 put the game to bed after the first twenty.
The second session saw the home side rack up even more shots but incredibly could only find the net once as Moss showed great hands to slot into the far corner on 24.05. With Bowater performing heroics in the net, Billingham had to be content with a 6-0 lead by the interval buzzer.
The Stars showed their appetite for more goals just 39 seconds into the final stanza as Daniel Šilar picked up a rebound and poked home. Wilkinson bagged his second on 43.58 when the puck came back off the boards behind the net and fell to him perfectly to one-time it home low past Bowater. Less than a minute later Stattersfield found Rubeš out front for the divert into the net, a goal that prompted the end of Bowater and a spell for Matthew Lowden between the Nottingham pipes. Lowden kept the hosts out until just 89 seconds from the final hooter, nice interplay between Matthew Campbell and Shaun Galloway setting up Jack Emerson for the Stars’ tenth and a welcome first win of 2020.
Man-of-the-Match for the Stars was Joe Dowdle.
Tomáš Rubeš 2+2; Michael Elder 2+1; James Moss 2+0; Callum Wilkinson 2+0; Daniel Šilar 1+2; Jack Emerson 1+0; Darren Stattersfield 0+3; Callum Davies 0+2; Dylan Hehir 0+1; Ben Davison 0+1; Shaun Galloway 0+1; Stuart Jackson 0+1; Matthew Campbell 0+1; Craig Thurston 0+1
SOG: Thomas Brown 16 (4 / 6 / 6)
SOG: Dean Bowater 49 (22 / 23 / 4); Matthew Lowden 12
Coach Stephen Foster headed the post-game reaction on Billingham Stars TV:
Billingham are in NIHL North Cup action next weekend with a two-legged semi-final against Whitley Warriors. The home fixture is on Saturday 18th January at the Forum (6pm face off) with the return the following afternoon at Hillheads (5pm face off).
Sutton Sting 5 Solihull Barons 7
Solway Sharks 5 Billingham Stars 1
Blackburn Hawks 3 Whitley Warriors 6
Solihull Barons 9 Solway Sharks 6
Billingham Stars 10 Nottingham Lions 0
Images courtesy of Linda Crabtree