Ultimate Windows sponsored Billingham Stars

Billingham Stars pushed Solihull Barons all the way in their National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 clash on Sunday evening, but ultimately came away empty handed as the Barons squeaked home with a 5-4 win.

The Stars travelled to the Midlands on Sunday night expecting a tough game from an experienced Solihull Barons outfit still smarting from their defeat on Teesside last month. With Jacob Hammond needed elsewhere, Billingham handed a senior debut to Ryan Wardell as back-up to starting netminder Thomas Brown. As is standard in the tight confines of the Hobs Moat Road rink, the early play was end-to-end with chances for both sides. An indicator of the chippy nature of the game came as early as the fifth minute when a bad hit from Niklas Ottosson left Jack Emerson prone and unable to continue for the rest of the period. On the resulting power play it was the hosts who took the game by the scruff of the neck, Thomas Soar hitting the post on the break as the Barons kept their guests pinned into their own zone despite the extra man. Billingham improved on their next power play, Chris Sykes finding the back of the net from a very tight angle in the ninth minute with Paul Stanley sitting out a roughing call. A fight between Patriks Grigors and Marcus Maynard in the 11th minute saw the Solihull captain pick up an additional instigation penalty, but again the Stars looked all at sea with the man advantage and a two-man break was finished by Daniel Mulcahy in the 12th minute to level up the game. Barons has just returned to full strength when Philip Mulcahy edged the home side ahead with a low shot past Brown. Billingham weathered the storm and eventually got themselves back on level terms when Joe Walls fired home from out front in the 18th minute.

The Stars had a chance to get themselves ahead early in the middle session as Solihull twice fell foul of referee Andy Miller to give the visitors a two-man advantage, but the Barons penalty kill held firm and limited Billingham to just a handful of shots that did not trouble netminder Graham Laverick. At the other end, Brown stood up to thwart Callum Bowley one-on-one as the home side looked increasingly dangerous, and it was no surprise when James Smith nosed them ahead in the 33rd minute when he beat Brown stick-side. Billingham were stirred into a response and - once again on the power play - they squared the game two minutes later when Sykes potted home at the third attempt. The hosts were not to be denied however, and Ottosson tapped home with 33 seconds remaining to put Solihull in front at the break.

The Stars got off to the worst possible start in the final stanza when they left Ottosson free on the back stick to beat Brown with less than two minutes gone. With that added breathing space, Solihull piled on the pressure and Billingham were forced onto the back foot for long spells as the home side sought to finish off their visitors. The breakthrough never came however, and the Barons were dealt a blow when Bowley argued himself into an early shower when his attempt to draw a penalty from Ben Greenhalgh didn't pay off. Solihull had a 'goal' ruled out as the clock ticked past five minutes to play, and they managed to keep the puck in the neutral zone sufficiently to prevent Stars pulling Brown for the extra attacker. They eventually managed to do so with less than 30 seconds to play, and it paid off as Michael Elder found the top corner almost immediately, but Billingham were all out of time and it proved to be a consolation goal only, 5-4 the final score.

Man-of-the-Match for Billingham was Callum Wilkinson.

 

Barons Stats:

Niklas Ottosson 2+1; Philip Mulcahy 1+3; Daniel Mulcahy 1+2; James Smith 1+0; Andrew Whitehouse 0+2; Ashley Calvert 0+1; Andrew Hayward 0+1

SOG: Graham Laverick 25 (11 / 9 / 5)

Stars Stats:

Chris Sykes 2+1; Michael Elder 1+1; Joe Walls 1+0; James Moss 0+2; Ben Greenhalgh 0+1; Patriks Grigors 0+1; Jack Emerson 0+1; Callum Wilkinson 0+1

SOG: Thomas Brown 36 (11 / 13 / 12)

 

Coach Stephen Foster paid tribute to both sides after coming out on the wrong end of a close game:

“The boys put everything into the game again but we've come out on the wrong side of the result. Solihull attack with numbers and they get up the ice together as a team, tonight they did that just that little bit better than we did. We made the odd mistake, we wanted to eliminate the odd man rush but we didn't quite manage to do that. Our defensive zone is getting better and the boys are getting used to their responsibilities back there - we can only improve with the tough games we've got coming up and that's what we have to do.”

The Stars face a tough weekend on the road next time out, a trip to National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 leaders Solway Sharks on Saturday 27th November (face off 7pm) is followed by a North Cup fixture at Dundee Comets next Sunday 28th November (face off 5pm).

 

Weekend Results:

NIHL(N)1:

Solihull Barons 5 Billingham Stars 4

Blackburn Hawks 6 Nottingham Lions 5 (after overtime)

North Cup:

Dundee Comets 1 Solway Sharks 4

Whitley Warriors 1 Dundee Comets 2