Match Report 16th February 2020
Ultimate Windows sponsored Billingham Stars put up their best show on the road at near neighbours Whitley Warriors in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 on Sunday evening but came up short, the title-chasers running out 6-3 victors.
Billingham travelled to Tyneside blessed with a larger bench than their previous visits, new signings Lewis Jones and Dave Thomas making their second appearances in a Stars jersey. Tom Brown got the start between the pipes after a series of fine performances in recent games, but he could do little to prevent the Champions-elect going ahead on 3.07 as Ross Murray tried a shot on the spin that Brown got a piece of but could not stop creeping into the far corner. It took Billingham a while to feel their way into the game, Craig Thurston switching on the afterburners to get away their first real shot on goal in the sixth minute, but Richie Lawson in the Warriors net caught it comfortably between the pads. The Stars found themselves having to absorb an increasing amount of pressure as Brown kept Whitley at bay, but they did not buckle and got back into the game on 12.52 when James Moss tapped under Lawson's pad after sterling work from Chris Sykes to dispossess the defenceman. Billingham had a chance to move ahead when Michael Elder went one-on-one with Lawson in the 17th minute but he out his final effort straight at the Warriors goaltender. A defensive blunder let in danger man Ben Campbell on 17.56 as the home side got their noses in front before the interval.
Warriors put their guests on the back foot from the puck drop at the start of the second session and the Stars had to cope with wave after wave of Whitley attacks. Brown was standing up well once again and it took until 30.38 for Warriors to finally make their possession play count, Campbell cruising into the crease with no one taking the body and allowed to poke home at the far post. It seemed as if that would be the starter for ten, but to their credit despite the onslaught Billingham conceded only twice more, Campbell bagging his hat trick on 35.22 before setting up Callum Queenan for his side's fifth on 36.20 to make the game safe.
The Stars seemed determined to take the fight to their local rivals in the final stanza, on two occasions quite literally. Thomas dropped the gloves with Murray in the 43rd minute, the two men sitting out double minors for fighting, before the visitors gave their hosts something else to think about when Joe Walls’ layback set up Tomáš Rubeš for the tap-in on 46.26 to narrow the gap. Thomas went for Round Two with Jordan Barnes in the 51st minute, the Whitley forward incurring an additional minor for roughing to put Billingham on the power play. The two minutes was almost up when a well-worked move set up Thurston who made no mistake to bring the Stars within two on 52.13. Any hopes of a comeback were killed off just over two minutes later however, Ben Richards finding the top corner to settle the home side’s nerves. Billingham fought all the way to the final buzzer, and with a 6-3 final score that perhaps flattered the Warriors in the end, came out of the game with plenty of positive vibes.
Man-of-the-Match for the Stars was Andy Finn.
Ben Campbell 3+1; Callum Queenan 1+1; Ross Murray 1+1; Ben Richards 1+0; Anthony Wetherell 0+1; Harry Harley 0+1; Richie Lawson 0+1
SOG: Richie Lawson 34 (15 / 8 / 11)
James Moss 1+1; Craig Thurston 1+1; Tomáš Rubeš 1+0; Dylan Hehir 0+1; Chris Sykes 0+1
SOG: Thomas Brown 57 (14 / 29 / 14)
Coach Stephen Foster was pleased to see some crucial improvements in his side’s game:
“It was a very spirited performance tonight. We’re building up to try and do something in the playoffs and it’s all little building blocks for us now. Every week we’ve got to get better and certainly tonight we did that. Defensively we are getting better, we are still giving up opportunities however. The forwards could have had a lot more than the three they’ve scored but we just need to be a bit hungrier in front of the net and possibly we could have run them even closer.”
Billingham welcome Nottingham Lions to the Forum for the first of a four-game home stand in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 on Saturday 22nd February, face off 6pm.
Whitley Warriors 6 Billingham Stars 3
Images courtesy of Colin Edwards Photography