Ultimate Windows sponsored Billingham Stars

Billingham Stars and nearest neighbours Whitley Warriors skated out in front of a large crowd at the Forum on Sunday evening in a battle for National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 points. Warriors travelled to Teesside with a stronger squad than for last weekend’s Cup encounter, captain Dean Holland and Adam Wood both added to the roster for this League game.

With both of the Grigors brothers taking to the ice in an interesting side show, it was the visitors who went on the offensive early as they tried to establish themselves as top dogs. Chris Sykes broke clear in the fifth minute and forced the pad save at the near post from Whitley netminder Dean Bowater, but this was a brief foray into enemy territory and it was no real surprise when Adam Finlinson got the Warriors on the board a minute later, poking home a recycled puck after Rolands Gritans had skipped into space. Whitley kept the pressure up, only Stars netminder Thomas Brown between Finlinson and his second goal in the eighth minute. Brown could do little about the visitors' second when it eventually did come in the 15th minute, a Craig Johnson point shot through traffic finding the bottom corner. Billingham were finding the going tough but clung on until the end of the period, Michael Elder firing just over the crossbar with under a minute remaining.

Billingham continued to live on their nerves in the middle session, but with Brown in superb form and the Warriors frontmen a little more wasteful in front of the net, the hosts were able to contain their guests through twenty minutes. The Stars were not without their own chances, Sykes setting up Callum Wilkinson for the tip-in in the 23rd minute, but Wilkinson could not connect. Whitley found the pipework twice as Dean Holland and Harry Harley were both denied. Late in the period the Stars threatened to get back into the game as first Lewis Crisp on the break and then a bullet of a slapshot from Elder both troubled Bowater but neither found the back of the net and the period closed out scoreless.

Billingham started the final stanza on the penalty kill, Patriks Grigors drawing the only penalty of the game on the buzzer for tripping. A successful kill saw Brown largely untroubled, but back at five-on-five the Warriors again upped the ante and began to ask questions of the Stars back line. It was the older Grigors who finally broke the deadlock, Whitley defenceman Rihards firing straight through Brown to effectively kill the game in the 47th minute. The points all but guaranteed, the Warriors shut down the Billingham offence and controlled the neutral zone to ensure there would be no way back for the home side, 0-3 the final score.

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

 

Stars Stats:

SOG: Thomas Brown 54 (16 / 27 / 11)

Warriors Stats:

Craig Johnson 1+0; Adam Finlinson 1+0; Rihards Grigors 1+0; Matthew McDonald 0+1; Shaun Kippin 0+1; Kyle Ross 0+1; Harry Harley 0+1

SOG: Dean Bowater 23 (6 / 7 / 10)

 

Head coach Stephen Foster could see evidence of the improvements his side are making week after week, and praised the effort shown:

“100% effort from boys once again right from the get-go. We started the first period pretty slow for me, it wasn’t our best, but I thought we grew into the game and improved as it went on. In the second and third periods we put the body about a bit more, we created a few more chances. We were in a better position than last week in that we were only two down at the first break, and Tom [Brown] was doing his thing to keep us in the game. We’ve changed the lines in the last few weeks and we’re still having to make changes due to players missing or coming back, but the guys are starting to get used to each other and hopefully that will continue and bring us more opportunities than we had tonight. We certainly cannot fault the desire, commitment and effort that the boys are putting in.”

 

Billingham make the short journey up to Whitley Bay next Sunday 19th for the last in this December mini-series for a National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 fixture, face off 5pm.

 

Weekend Results:

NIHL(N)1:

Billingham Stars 0 Whitley Warriors 3

Moralee Cup Semi-Final:

Solway Sharks 3 Widnes Wild 3

Widnes Wild 5 Solway Sharks 4 (Wild win the series 8-7)

 

Image gallery available via the Stars Facebook page - click here to view, all images as credited courtesy of Colin Edwards (CJE Photos) and Linda Crabtree.