Ultimate Windows sponsored Billingham Stars

Billingham Stars made the return journey to the Midlands on Sunday to take on a Nottingham Lions side they had eventually overcome in overtime in the corresponding National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 fixture the previous weekend.

Missing only Lennon Thomas who was on duty with the Under 18s, both teams got off to a slow start following a delayed face off, the lack of ice cut evident as the surface became choppy early on and disrupted both sides' passing games. The home side adapted better and spent long spells in the Stars zone, netminder Tom Brown called upon to make several important early stops. Gradually Billingham worked their way into the game and opened the scoring in the 12th minute through Jack Emerson. Only an acrobatic diving save from Brown prevented an immediate equaliser, but the Lions were not to be denied and levelled things up in the 14th minute when Zachary Yokoyama found a way past Brown through traffic with the Stars goaltender largely unsighted. Billingham battled back, Patriks Grigors threading a pass from the defensive zone to find Chris Sykes who finished on the backhand to nose the visitors back in front in the 15th minute.

An end-to-end start to the second session saw Sykes have an early effort turned over the bar by Nottingham netminder Matty Bloor, but it was the only time either goaltender was troubled until both sides hit penalty trouble. First the hosts fell foul of referee Andy Miller, but the Stars were unable to capitalise with a poorly executed power play. Scruffy play from both sides saw several more trips to the penalty box, before Yokoyama was awarded a penalty shot in the 35th minute. His tame effort was watched all the way by Brown, who made an easy save at his feet. Less than a minute later Grigors brought down Louie Newell for a second penalty shot attempt, this time Brown was able to glove the shot past the post to safety. It looked like the period would close out goalless, but with 96 seconds remaining Joe Walls broke free down the right, his effort initially saved by Bloor but Alex Preston was on hand to pot home the rebound to put a little daylight between the two teams at the break.

Eager to make the game a little safer, Billingham went on the offensive early in the final stanza and were rewarded in the 44th minute when Sykes drifted into space and picked his spot past Bloor. The Lions were not about to give up the game however, and it took a point-blank save from Brown to retain the three-goal advantage in the 50th minute. Bloor was still busy at the other end, but Nottingham had to do something to try to get back into the game and he was pulled following a time out in the 56th minute. The Lions were forced to put Bloor back between the pipes a minute later when Newell was called for a trip on James Hellens, and the Stars made the extra man count when Michael Elder forced the puck home just 22 seconds into the power play. Still Nottingham tried to find a way through and tempers threatened to boil over with a flurry of late minors posted by both sides, but Billingham played out the remaining time comfortably enough and took home both points with a 1-5 road win.

Man-of-the-Match for the Stars was Joe Walls.

 

Lions Stats:

Zachary Yokoyama 1+0; Louie Newell 0+1

SOG: Matthew Bloor 37 (12 / 17 / 8)

Stars Stats:

Chris Sykes 2+1; Jack Emerson 1+0; Michael Elder 1+0; Alex Preston 1+0; Patriks Grigors 0+3; James Moss 0+2; Joe Walls 0+1; Joe Dowdle 0+1

SOG: Thomas Brown 35 (11 / 11 / 13)

 

Coach Stephen Foster saw plenty to be pleased about:

“Nottingham came to do a job, and especially in that first period where they kept throwing the high man up there which effectively left us playing four-on-four in the zone. We got a few odd-man rushes against us and we had to readjust slightly but they cost us a couple of penalty shots. Fortunately Tom Brown had yet another great game for us but all the boys chipped in once again. We had to cope with a few penalties, especially in the second, but our penalty kill did really well. The bigger ice gives us more space to play but mentally the boys have been struggling with the larger pads – tonight we had no mental blocks and the defence played much more comfortably.”

 

Next weekend Billingham will host Dundee Comets in the North Cup on Saturday 6th November before welcoming Solway Sharks to the Forum in a National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 fixture on Sunday 7th November to complete a home double header. Both games face off at 5.30pm.

 

Weekend Results:

NIHL(N)1:

Solway Sharks 4 Solihull Barons 3

Sheffield Scimitars 6 Whitley Warriors 7 (after penalty shots)

Nottingham Lions 1 Billingham Stars 5

Whitley Warriors 10 Blackburn Hawks 1

Midlands Cup:

Widnes Wild 2 Solihull Barons 7