Weekend Report: Stars v Hawks 131121 / Wild v Stars 141121
Billingham Stars suffered mixed fortunes in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 at the weekend, a welcome return to winning ways on Saturday quickly deflated by a late defeat on the road on Sunday.
Billingham welcomed Blackburn Hawks to the Forum on Saturday and were immediately on the offensive, a backhand effort from Jack Emerson recycled around the net and fed back by Chris Sykes to Emerson still all alone in front of the net for the one timer past Hawks netminder Michael Rogers after just 22 seconds. A one-sided first session ensued, but despite outshooting their guests 19-4, the Stars could not find the back of the net again.
With Calum Ruddick in the shower early with a match penalty for fighting, Blackburn started the second period a man down but a delayed minor call against the home side gave Petr Valusiak the incentive to battle for the puck in the Stars zone, the Czech forward rounding three men and Thomas Brown in the Billingham net to level the scores against the run of play. Hawks edged their way back into the game but the Stars did not let the goal deflate them and set about restoring their advantage. Eventually Patriks Grigors picked out Callum Wilkinson with a glorious pass in the 29th minute that Wilkinson finished into the bottom corner.
With just the single goal separating the sides going into the final twenty, Billingham once again tried to make their dominance count but had to wait until the 52nd minute before Michael Elder netted what proved to be the game winner from an exceptionally tight angle. Just 19 seconds later, Wilkinson fired through traffic for his second. Their shooting sticks seemingly found, Joe Walls made it five in the 54th minute with a wrist shot high past the glove, then capped a fine performance with his second less than two minutes from time. Valusiak tapped in a late consolation, but the hosts ran out deserved 6-2 winners.
Honorary Man-of-the-Match on his retirement for the Stars was Michael Bowman.
Joe Walls 2+0; Callum Wilkinson 2+0; Michael Elder 1+1; Jack Emerson 1+0; Chris Sykes 0+2; Lewis Crisp 0+2; Patriks Grigors 0+2; James Moss 0+1; Shaun Galloway 0+1; Alex Preston 0+1
SOG: Thomas Brown 33 (4 / 14 / 15)
Petr Valusiak 2+0; James Parsons 0+1; Aaron Davies 0+1
SOG: Michael Rogers 48 (19 / 16 / 13)
A fairly even opening session at Widnes Wild on Sunday saw Brown the slightly busier of the two netminders as both he and Harrison Walker – Stars’ nemesis last month - kept the forwards from both sides at bay.
The deadlock was finally broken in the 25th minute when a two-on-one breakaway was finished coolly past Brown by Vladislavs Vulkanovs, however if either team hoped the goal would open the floodgates they would be disappointed as a combination of excellent netminding, poor shot selection and plain bad luck ensured no further markers heading into the final session.
With everything still to play for, Billingham tried to get more traffic on Walker’s net and were handed their fifth power play opportunity of the evening in the 45th minute when Lee Kemp was called for holding. Finally they made the man advantage count, Wilkinson finishing close in at the near post after being fed by Sykes. The game looked like it might be heading for overtime, but first Richard Haggar and then Kieran Beach found the target in the final six minutes. Brown was pulled with just over a minute left on the clock, but Thomas Stubley made the game safe for the home side with an empty-net goal with 23 seconds to play, the final score 4-1.
Man-of-the-Match for Billingham was Thomas Brown.
Kieran Beach 1+1; Vladislavs Vulkanovs 1+0; Richard Haggar 1+0; Thomas Stubley 1+0; Tom Brierley 0+1; Liam Charnock 0+1; Chris Wilcox 0+1
SOG: Harrison Walker 37 (10 / 13 / 14)
Callum Wilkinson 1+0; James Moss 0+1; Chris Sykes 0+1
SOG: Thomas Brown 44 (18 / 11 / 15)
Speaking after the Wild defeat, coach Stephen Foster bemoaned a lack of ‘puck luck’ in front of goal that thwarted his side’s chance to grab all four points over the weekend:
“Tonight we had to weather the storm a little, Tom [Brown] came up big for us and made some great saves. We started getting back into it in the second period and made some opportunities. The third didn’t go our way but it was a great hockey game from both sides. Harrison [Walker] made some great saves but I think we made it easy for him in the first, we drove the net better after that and created more but he was equal to almost all of it.”
Billingham travel to Solihull Barons for a National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 fixture next Sunday 21st November, face off 5.30pm.
Sheffield Scimitars 1 Solway Sharks 5
Billingham Stars 6 Blackburn Hawks 2
Nottingham Lions 1 Solway Sharks 6
Whitley Warriors 4 Solihull Barons 3
Widnes Wild 4 Billingham Stars 1
Dundee Comets 3 Whitley Warriors 0
Blackburn Hawks 6 Sheffield Scimitars 9