Match Report 22nd February 2020
Ultimate Windows sponsored Billingham Stars made the perfect start to their regular National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 season run-in with a comprehensive 7-1 victory over basement side Nottingham Lions at the Forum on Saturday evening.
Needing two points to keep their noses ahead of Blackburn Hawks in the playoff berth jostle, Billingham started with Mark Turnbull in between the pipes, choosing to rest recent starter Thomas Brown. The Lions arrived on Teesside with just 13 skaters but with the experienced Dean Bowater backstopping them they were always going to prove tricky opponents. Nevertheless the first period went with the script, the Stars enjoying plenty of possession play before finally breaking the deadlock on 9.07 when Bowater gave up a Lewis Jones rebound, Tomáš Rubeš on hand to roof into the unguarded net. The chances continued to fall Billingham’s way as the coaches gave everyone on the bench ice time throughout, their patience rewarded with two goals in 38 seconds as first a Joe Walls speculative effort on the spin crept in at the near post on 15.51, then Ben Davison blasted home from the blue line to give the home side a comfortable lead at the break.
After not having much of a sniff of the puck in the first twenty, Nottingham made life much harder for their hosts in the second session. Hamish Hall found himself alone in front of Turnbull in the opening minute but fluffed his lines and allowed Turnbull to nullify the danger. There was no such let-off for the home side on 28.36 as Oliver Ellis surged forward from a neutral zone face off and fired straight through Turnbull to give the Stars something to think about. Billingham were still finding it tougher going and Turnbull had to be on alert as he kept out Louie Newell just after the halfway point, then he plucked a Thomas Palmer effort out of the air in the 35th minute. Unable to find their rhythm, the Stars kept plugging away and eventually restored their three-goal cushion on 37.36 when Rubeš squeezed the puck in off Bowater from behind the net.
The Billingham side from the first period turned up to play the final stanza as the home side stepped up a gear to put distance between themselves and their hardworking guests. Shaun Galloway one-timed under Bowater on 43.42, then Rubeš secured his hat trick on 49.25 when he got the final tip on a Michael Elder wrist shot. Less than a minute later, Rubeš broke away and rounded Bowater before finishing on the backhand, the seventh and final Stars goal too much for Bowater who pulled himself to give Joshua Crane the final ten minutes in net. Crane kept the on-fire Rubeš at bay as Billingham ran out 7-1 winners, two precious points in the bag as the jockeying for playoff positions starts in earnest.
Man-of-the-Match for the Stars was Tomáš Rubeš.
Tomáš Rubeš 4+1; Joe Walls 1+0; Ben Davison 1+0; Shaun Galloway 1+0; James Hellens 0+2; Michael Elder 0+2; Lewis Jones 0+2; James Moss 0+1; Jack Emerson 0+1; Lewis Crisp 0+1; Joe Dowdle 0+1; Callum Wilkinson 0+1; Craig Thurston 0+1
SOG: Mark Turnbull 18 (5 / 10 / 3)
Oliver Ellis 1+0
SOG: Dean Bowater 42 (16 / 12 / 14); Joshua Crane 7
Coach Stephen Foster thought his Stars ‘got what they deserved’ after dominating forty of the sixty minutes:
“We knew that Nottingham would bring a hard game tonight, they defend well and they’ve got good netminders. It was important for us to come out firing early doors which I think we did. It was important for us to give everyone ice too, which we did from the beginning and everyone gave a good account of themselves. We seemed to go down to Nottingham’s level in the second which was a bit of a wake-up call, but we came back hard in the final period. We had a lot of scoring opportunities but on balance I think we got what we deserved out of the game.”
Billingham will host Solihull Barons on Saturday 29th February (face off 6pm) followed by second-placed Solway Sharks on Sunday 1st March (face off 6.30pm) in two National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 encounters at the Forum.
Blackburn Hawks 6 Sutton Sting 9
Billingham Stars 7 Nottingham Lions 1
Solihull Barons 4 Sutton Sting 1
Nottingham Lions 3 Blackburn Hawks 6
North Cup Final:
Murrayfield Racers 4 Whitley Warriors 2
Whitley Warriors 4 Murrayfield Racers 3 (Racers win the trophy in overtime)
Images courtesy of Tony Burgum Photography.