Ultimate Windows sponsored Billingham Stars

Ultimate Windows sponsored Billingham Stars kept themselves ahead in the fight for fifth spot in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 season run-in with two points from four in this weekend’s home double header.

The rearranged fixture on Saturday evening saw Solihull Barons arrive on Teesside a little short-benched with just eleven skaters. Billingham got an early power play opportunity when Andrew Whitehouse tripped Joe Walls in the seventh minute. The penalty was only in its infancy when James Hellens put a shot on net that Barons netminder Daniel Brittle could not get hold of and it trickled into the net for the opener on 6.28. It was Whitehouse on the naughty step once again on a holding minor when Hellens turned provider, feeding Tomáš Rubeš out on the right for the one timer past Brittle on 15.42, a two-goal cushion at the break just reward for a dominant first period performance.

The second session saw Player/Coach Michael Bowman sit an early penalty for hooking and it was Solihull’s special team’s chance to shine, Henry Adams finding the gap between Stars netminder Thomas Brown’s pads on 23.06. But with Whitehouse in the box yet again, Craig Thurston found Callum Wilkinson on the back stick on 27.01 to re-establish the advantage. Straight from the face off Wilkinson found the back of the net for his second in ten seconds to extend the lead, Brittle deciding to replace himself with young back-up goaltender Will Bray in the 30th minute. Barons got a touch of good fortune on 34.06 when a loose puck fell fortuitously to Adam Brittle who picked out Thomas Soar on the far post to one time home. Billingham found themselves two men short in the 38th minute with Andy Finn and Wilkinson both incurring minor penalties and Solihull wasted no time in making it a one-goal game, Soar going under Brown’s glove on 37.50 for 4-3 at the interval.

The Stars were guilty of wasting too many gilt-edged chances at the start of the third but did not panic and eventually they could breathe a little easier when Rubeš skipped around the defence and Bray to backhand home on 55.26. Rubeš capped another fine points performance when he found Chris Sykes close in on Bray for the tap in on 57.08 to make sure of the points, 6-3 the final score.

Man-of-the-Match for the Stars was James Hellens.

Stars Stats:

Tomáš Rubeš 2+3; Callum Wilkinson 2+0; James Hellens 1+2; Chris Sykes 1+1; James Moss 0+2; Andy Finn 0+1; Dylan Hehir 0+1; Craig Thurston 0+1

SOG: Thomas Brown 29 (7 / 13 / 9)

Barons Stats:

Thomas Soar 2+1; Henry Adams 1+0; Philip Mulcahy 0+2; Adam Brittle 0+2

SOG: Daniel Brittle 24 (14 / 10); Will Bray 21 (5 / 16)

Wanting to ensure second place and having survived a scare at home to Blackburn Hawks the previous evening, Solway Sharks arrived on Sunday with a full strength bench. Billingham were slow out of the blocks and gifted the Scots the opener on 4.52 when they failed to clear behind the net and lost possession, Scott Henderson on hand to rifle it home. Another defensive error contributed to the visitors’ second, Gordon Horne lifting the puck over Brown on 10.17 for an early two-goal cushion. To their credit the Stars edged their way back into the game, Rubeš pulling his man out of position on 11.47 and finding Michael Elder on the far post for the tap-in.

Solway returned from the break looking hungry and laid siege to the Billingham net, Brown eventually beaten by a crisp finish from Liam Stenton on 24.09. The game became a little more even as the Stars saw chances come and go, but it was Stenton again with the laser shot from the blue line on 38.36 to extend the lead with Callum Davies sitting out a contentious tripping call.

Thurston rang the metalwork as the home side tried to close the gap at the start of the final session, but they were undone by another defensive lapse on 45.59 as Viktor Nestrasil dispossessed the defence and fed Horne for his second. Still the hosts did not give up and an Elder blast straight from the face off on 49.35 gave them hope. With three goals to find, Billingham pulled Brown with 2.14 remaining and set up camp around the Sharks net, but despite throwing everything they had at netminder Gary Russell Solway stood firm and made the game safe with an empty-net goal from Kieran Hair with 29 seconds left on the clock.

Man-of-the-Match for Billingham was Thomas Brown.

Stars Stats:

Michael Elder 2+0; Callum Davies 0+2; Tomáš Rubeš 0+1

SOG: Thomas Brown 53 (19 / 19 / 15)

Sharks Stats:

Liam Stenton 2+0; Gordon Horne 2+0; Kieran Hair 1+1; Scott Henderson 1+0; Peter Gápa 0+3; Viktor Nestrasil 0+2; Stuart Kerr 0+1; Scott Crane 0+1

SOG: Gary Russell 39 (15 / 12 / 12)

Speaking after Sunday’s game, Coach Stephen Foster is looking for consistency from his Stars:

“We had five solid periods over the weekend. Against Solihull yesterday you could see we really wanted it – we’ve spoken about getting into the playoff mentality and everyone pulling on the same rope and that’s what happened. Tonight we gave up too many opportunities but once we got back to it we were ok – we just needed to do that for the sixty minutes.”

Billingham welcome Sutton Sting for a National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 clash at the Forum on Sunday 8th March, face off 6.30pm.

 

Weekend Results:

NIHL(N)1:

Sutton Sting 7 Nottingham Lions 2

Billingham Stars 6 Solihull Barons 3

Solway Sharks 7 Blackburn Hawks 6

Solihull Barons 2 Whitley Warriors 4

Blackburn Hawks 8 Nottingham Lions 1

Billingham Stars 2 Solway Sharks 6

 

Images: Linda Crabtree (Barons) / Colin Edwards Photography (Sharks) except MOM Tony Burgum Photography