Weekend report: 15 March - the end, but not how we wanted it
There was an air of uncertainty around after Ultimate Windows sponsored Billingham Stars’ regular
season ended with a 6-8 loss to Solihull Barons on Sunday night.
Billingham battled back from 2-7 early in the final period to just a single goal behind at 6-7 before a late
empty net goal from the visitors sealed the win.
However there is a question mark over whether that was actually the final game of the season full stop,
as the continued spread of COVID-19 ‘coronavirus’ impacts sporting events and mass gatherings. The
English Ice Hockey Association are expected to make a decision in the next 24 hours about the
remainder of the 2019-20 season. (On Monday evening, all hockey until May 31 was cancelled)
On the ice, Solihull came out flying and opened the scoring inside a minute through Phillip Mulcahy.
Two Stars penalties in quick succession gave the visitors power play time and they capitalised with a
quick double by Henry Adams, making it 3-0 just 3.34 into the contest.
Billingham found their way into the game and began creating chances, finally paying dividends on 14
minutes as Craig Thurston cut in from the wing before firing into the net in front of the Stars faithful.
Into the middle frame, special teams were again the order of the day as the teams picked up nine minor
penalties between them. Solihull’s power play clicked again just before the half hour as Thomas Soar
slammed in from close range to extend the lead.
Dylan Hehir sprang from the box on 33 minutes and was put straight through on net where he
successfully beat Sam Hewitt in the Barons net for a short-handed tally and Billingham were back within
two. The joy was short-lived as on the same powerplay, Solihull’s Soar bagged his second of the game
to make it a 5-2 game at the end of the second period.
The visitors appeared to kill the game once and for all early in the final frame with another pair of goals
in the opening moments. Philip Mulcahy netted his second of the night at 41.29 before Soar completed
his hat-trick with a well-taken finish at 42.41 (powerplay).
Operating their own man advantage, Billingham were on the board at 46.16 with Ben Davison’s bullet
beating Will Bray in the visitors’ net. (3-7)
Seven minutes from time, Billingham’s young forward line started a break from behind their own net and
it was finished at the top of the crease by Shaun Galloway, with assists from Walls and Crisp. Now it
was 4-7 and the team and supporters started to feel the momentum with them.
Two minutes later, on the power play, Stars quick passing around the zone set up captain Michael Elder
in the slot and his wrist shot found the top corner, 4.59 to play and it as 5-7.
After a timeout from coach Stephen Foster, Billingham pulled goalie Thomas Brown in favour of an extra
attacker and the plan worked perfectly, Tomaš Rubeš having the space to find the net with 94 seconds
left and it was a one goal game (6-7).
Into the final minute, Billingham had an attacking zone face off so Brown was lifted again for the extra
skater, however this time it didn’t work and Solihull gained possession and Thomas Soar fired the length
of the ice into the empty net for his fourth goal of the night, sealing an 8-6 win for the Barons.
Man-of-the-Match for the Stars was Dylan Hehir.
Michael Elder 1+2, Craig Thurston and Ben Davison 1+1, Dylan Hehir, Shaun Galloway and Tomaš
Rubeš 1+0, Chris Sykes 0+2, Joe Walls and Lewis Crisp 0+1.
SOG: Thomas Brown 54 shots, 47 saves (18 / 20 / 16). Empty net 1 shot.
Soar 4+0, P Mulcahy and Adams 2+0, D Mulcahy 0+4, Ottoson 0+3, Harrison and Brittle 0+2, Stanley
and Bray 0+1
SOG: Hewitt 21 shots, 19 saves. Bray 15 shots, 11 saves.
Head coach Stephen Foster was in reflective mood in his post-game interview:
“Both teams gave their absolute all, and we almost pulled off the great comeback at the end. I’m
pleased with how we’ve played over the last few weeks and that’s something we can take forward.
“At the moment we don’t know what’s happening, it would be nice to continue into the playoffs but you
have to respect the situation and see what the League decides is best.”
NIHL North 1:
Sutton 9-5 Blackburn
Blackburn 0-7 Whitley
Billingham 6-8 Solihull
Nottingham 2-7 Sutton