Ultimate Windows sponsored Billingham Stars

BILLINGHAM STARS travelled up to Hillheads for their final National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 game of the regular season on Sunday evening short of four players including captain Michael Elder for a local derby with little at stake but pride.

With Joe Walls taking Elder’s slot on the first line and just four defencemen, the smallest squad of the season for the Stars got off to the worst possible start when a loose pass from the corner fell straight to veteran Shaun Kippin. Billingham netminder Thomas Brown couldn’t quite keep hold of the shot and Callum Watson was on hand to help the puck over the line for the opening goal after just 61 seconds. To their credit the Teessiders response was immediate, Shaun Galloway breaking clear from the Stars defensive zone and lifting it past Dean Bowater in the Warriors net on the backhand just 43 seconds later. From that point however the stronger home bench began to assert some authority and spent long spells camped in the Billingham end. It was little surprise when Jamie Ord banged home a loose puck in the eighth minute to move the hosts back in front, then with Patriks Grigors sitting out a high stick minor, Adam Wood blasted into the roof of Brown’s net in the 14th minute to widen the gap. The Stars rarely ventured forward, but when they did they sought to cause Bowater problems and almost got one back in the final few minutes of the session when Galloway shot over the bar.

It was more of the same at the start of the second as Whitley piled on the pressure but struggled to create anything meaningful in front of the net. With Brown once again putting in a great performance between the pipes, Warriors found themselves getting more and more frustrated as they failed to turn their dominance in possession into more goals. It looked like they might be made to pay when a classic counterattack move saw Finn Bradon set up Chris Sykes for the one timer from the circle past the glove of Bowater in the 38th minute, but with just 12 seconds left on the clock and the Stars on the offensive, Kyle Ross broke free. One-on-one, Brown was able to make the initial kick save but the rebound fell kindly onto Ross’ stick for the tap-in and the restoration of the two-goal cushion.

A harder-hitting Billingham side came out for the final session, almost immediately they made the breakthrough they were looking for when the productive second line unit combined perfectly for James Moss to one-time home in the 42nd minute and make it a one-goal game. Despite tiredness creeping into the short bench the Stars kept pushing for an equaliser but couldn’t quite get the bounce, the game eventually settled by a 58th minute goal from Kippin.

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

 

Warriors Stats:

Shaun Kippin 1+1; Callum Watson 1+0; Kyle Ross 1+0; Adam Wood 1+0; Jamie Ord 1+0; Harry Harley 0+2; Steven Chalmers 0+1; Rihards Grigors 0+1

SOG: Dean Bowater 19 (5 / 7 / 7)

Stars Stats:

James Moss 1+1; Shaun Galloway 1+1; Chris Sykes 1+0; Finn Bradon 0+2;

SOG: Thomas Brown 68 (26 / 31 / 11)

 

Stars Head Coach Stephen Foster lauded a late show that will give his side a boost with the playoffs a week away:

“We didn’t come out of the blocks very well tonight. We know we can have a go at teams but we gave the Warriors too much respect and we looked like we were going to just go through the motions. We can’t allow that to happen against teams like Whitley or we can very quickly find ourselves a few goals down. We were missing that fight and determination in our own zone and we were letting them get goal-side of us. We made sure we regrouped for the second period, we still gave up too many chances in good areas but we were getting better. In the third we had nothing to lose and we put a performance together that will springboard us into the playoff games next weekend. It was one of our better performances from the year and will give us confidence going into the quarter final against Widnes Wild.”

Billingham will face Widnes Wild in the first round of the end-of-season playoff competition next weekend. The first leg is at the Forum on Saturday 16th April (face off 5.30pm) with the return leg at Widnes on Sunday 17th April (face off 7.30pm).

 

Weekend Results:

NIHL(N)1:

Solway Sharks 4 Whitley Warriors 2

Whitley Warriors 5 Billingham Stars 3

Solihull Barons 10 Nottingham Lions 1

Widnes Wild 9 Sheffield Scimitars 3

Blackburn Hawks 6 Solway Sharks 7