Match Report 2nd February 2020
Ultimate Windows sponsored Billingham Stars came up against a sharp-shooting Solihull Barons in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 on Sunday evening, clinical finishing ultimately proving the difference as the Midlanders ran out 8-2 victors.
Billingham arrived in the Midlands with both of their new signings - Lewis Jones and Dave Thomas - in the squad to make their debuts. Several players had not made the long trip however, so some rejigging of the forward lines was required to accommodate the loss of the departed Daniel Šilar and the unavailable Callum Davies and Jack Emerson. A fast break from Tomáš Rubeš and Craig Thurston saw the Stars get away the first shot in anger after just 40 seconds but Thurston could only find netminder Sam Hewitt's middle. From that point on Billingham found themselves under increasing pressure in their own zone, and on 2.08 a failure to clear in front of the net allowed Andrew Whitehouse to tap back to Matthew Maurice who rifled home under Stars goaltender Thomas Brown. A rash of minor penalties against the home side followed, but Billingham's power play unit misfired and they were unable to capitalise on an extended five-on-three situation. Barons continued their sustained possession play once the penalties had expired and the visitors were left chasing their hosts around the rink whilst Brown turned away an impressive amount of shots. Eventually however the pressure got its reward, Tom Soar with the layback to Callum Bowley who placed the puck past Brown's glove on 16.10 for a two-goal lead at the break.
Plenty of goalmouth action in the second session as Billingham tried to find a way into the game whilst Solihull looked a threat every time they moved forward. Brown was giving a fine performance between the pipes and pulled off three heroic saves in the 23rd minute to keep his side in the game. He could do nothing about Soar's effort on 25.49 - with the Stars reduced to three men Soar was the man in the right place to finish with Brown's crease full of bodies. Once back at full strength Billingham were enjoying more of the play but could not find a way past Hewitt with some poor shot selection. A lapse in concentration let in Soar for two goals in nine seconds around the 35-minute mark, tough on Brown who had turned away so much rubber to that point. The Stars rallied and had their best spell of the game late in the session, eventually getting on the board through captain Michael Elder on 37.54 with an effort from the left that beat Hewitt at his near post.
The game gone, Billingham didn’t give up the fight but despite almost matching their hosts on shot count in the final twenty it was the precise nature of the Barons finishing that would ensure a heavy-looking defeat. Niklas Ottosson’s effort on 42.53 illustrated this perfectly as he picked the puck-sized space over Brown’s shoulder for their sixth. The Stars did not help themselves and coughed up two short-handed goals – one player returning from a five-on-three situation gave Solihull men over on the break on 45.52, David Rogers’ pass finding Ottosson for the finish. Then on 55.21 Maurice skipped round a static defence and showed good hands to slip the puck under Brown. Billingham bagged a late consolation when Hewitt made an error of judgment in coming out to clear the puck, Thurston able to collect and fire into the unguarded net on 57.56 for an 8-2 final score.
Man-of-the-Match for Billingham was Stuart Jackson.
Thomas Soar 3+2; Niklas Ottosson 2+1; Matthew Maurice 2+0; Callum Bowley 1+3; Adam Brittle 0+2; David Rogers 0+1; Andrew Whitehouse 0+1; Philip Mulcahy 0+1; Sam Hewitt 0+1
SOG: Sam Hewitt 31 (6 / 13 / 12)
Michael Elder 1+0; Craig Thurston 1+0
SOG: Thomas Brown 46 (15 / 17 / 14)
Coach Stephen Foster took positives from a game where the score line did not perhaps reflect the effort from his Stars:
“The Barons were deadly tonight. Tom’s made some great saves tonight but every goal they got they had to work for. When they attack, they attack with pace and numbers and that made it hard for us. We’ve put a lot of time into our power play this week in training but come game time we lacked any danger which is a concern. Yet again though the youngsters have come in and done so well, given 100% and that’s all you can ask.”
The Stars host Solihull Barons in the reverse National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 fixture at the Forum on Sunday 9th February, face off 6.30pm.
Solway Sharks 3 Whitley Warriors 8
Sutton Sting 8 Solihull Barons 6
Whitley Warriors 6 Solway Sharks 1
Blackburn Hawks 7 Nottingham Lions 4
Solihull Barons 8 Billingham Stars 2
Images courtesy of Keith & Jenny Davies