Match Report: Stars v Lions 090122
BILLINGHAM STARS welcomed Nottingham Lions as their ‘first footers’ to the Forum for a National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 encounter on Sunday evening, the Stars looking to put a miserable end to 2021 behind them whilst the Lions had a second win on the bounce in their sights after finally chalking up their first victory in four years just before the festive break.
Despite playing an U18s fixture at Whitley at lunchtime, the Stars younger contingent were all available for Sunday’s clash. With Callum Wilkinson back in the squad, the first line of Wilkinson, Chris Sykes and Michael Elder was restored and it was this line that asked the most questions of the visitors as the game progressed. The first period was fast and furious as both sides sought to gain the upper hand, Thomas Brown in the Stars net making several crucial early stops whilst at the other end Billingham let a few chances go begging. Eventually however it was the home side who broke the deadlock, a perfectly placed wrist shot from Sykes biding his time out front before picking his spot past the glove of Lions netminder Matthew Bloor in the tenth minute. Billingham took advantage of a slashing call against Matthew Brown when Sykes found Elder with a laser pass, the captain firing home from an acute angle to double the lead in the 13th minute. The end-to-end action continued, Brown thwarting the visitors to retain the two-goal cushion going into the break.
The Stars signalled their intent very early in the middle session, Sykes stripping the Nottingham defence of the puck on the blue line and rounding Bloor for his second after only 13 seconds. Billingham noticeably stepped up a gear and took themselves further away from their guests in the 23rd minute when Elder collected a rebound and found the net once again from an acute angle. The Lions were finding life a lot tougher in this period, Sykes putting the game to bed with his hattrick marker in the 26th minute, a breakaway effort that he slid under the netminder. His goal prompted a change in the Nottingham net as Luca Sheldon replaced Bloor, however it wasn’t long before Sheldon too was picking the puck out of his net as Alex Preston forced one home on the spin in the 32nd minute. After threatening the net several times, Finn Bradon finally got his reward with the pick of the goals in the 36th minute, a top shelf effort making his first senior marker one to remember for the talented youngster.
The result beyond doubt, the third period reverted to a game much like the first with the Lions pushing hard to break Brown’s shutout. They were given the perfect opportunity to do so when first James Moss (unsportsmanlike conduct) and then Lewis Crisp (boarding) were sent to the sinbin to give the Lions a five-on-three powerplay. They did not squander their chance, Zachary Yokoyama finishing his own rebound through Brown’s legs to finally get the visitors on the score sheet in the 48th minute. His shoutout gone, Brown made way for Jacob Hammond in the 53rd minute. Neither side could add to their tally in the closing minutes, the Stars 7-1 victory a welcome start to the New Year for the Teessiders.
Man-of-the-Match for Billingham was Chris Sykes.
Chris Sykes 3+1; Michael Elder 2+0; Finn Bradon 1+0; Alex Preston 1+0; Callum Wilkinson 0+3; Shaun Galloway 0+2; Joe Walls 0+1; Tommy Spraggon 0+1; Lewis Crisp 0+1
SOG: Thomas Brown 29 (13 / 6 / 10); Jacob Hammond 11
Zachary Yokoyama 1+0; Luke Thomas 0+1; Ellis Ricci 0+1
SOG: Matthew Bloor 32 (13 / 9 / 10); Luca Sheldon 12
Head coach Stephen Foster was more than happy to see his side get back to winning ways:
“The break did the boys really good. We let ourselves down against Whitley last time out, but we played well tonight and we’ve got our shooting sticks back. We created a lot of good opportunities, but in saying that we gave up some opportunities to the Lions in good positions and we must get better at closing those down. We relied on Tom [Brown] maybe a little bit too much in that first period but we got better as the game went on and really dominated the second period. Overall a great win and a really good effort by the boys.”
The Stars have a weekend off next week before taking on National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 leaders Solway Sharks at the Forum on Sunday 23rd January, face off 5.30pm.
Whitley Warriors 0 Solway Sharks 9
Billingham Stars 7 Nottingham Lions 1
Solihull Barons 4 Sheffield Scimitars 1
Blackburn Hawks 5 Widnes Wild 4 (after overtime)