Ultimate Windows sponsored Billingham Stars

BILLINGHAM STARS now know who they will face in the end of season playoffs after a double defeat weekend in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 meant a sixth-place finish was certain.

The Stars travelled to Dumfries to face League champions Solway Sharks on Saturday without Head Coach Stephen Foster and first line centre Callum Wilkinson, his slot once again taken by Alex Preston. Despite the gap between the League champions and Billingham back in sixth, it was the Teessiders who were quick off the mark, James Moss doing all the hard work to set up Finn Bradon for the tap in after just 69 seconds. The Stars worked hard to retain their lead but danger man Peter Gápa was a constant thorn in the side and when the defence failed to pick him up in the tenth minute he was allowed to pick up his own rebound and equalise.

Into the second session and again Billingham got the jump on their hosts, a pinpoint pass from Tommy Spraggon setting up Bradon for his second of the game in the 24th minute. A mistake by Sharks netminder Calum Hepburn let in James Moss on the backhand in the 29th minute for a surprise two-goal lead, but by the break Solway had pegged back their guests when Ross Murray finished his own rebound in the 37th minute.

It didn’t take the Sharks long to get back on level terms in the third stanza, Gápa forcing the puck home with just 61 seconds gone. A well-worked fourth for the home side saw Ewan Anderson get their noses in front in the 50th minute, then the Stars made the mistake of giving Gápa too much room for him to bag his hat trick in the 58th minute. Stuart Kerr wrapped up the win with 12 seconds to go as a four-goal unanswered third period blast undid the Teessiders for the second week in a row.

Man-of-the-Match for Billingham was Finn Bradon.

 

Sharks Stats:

Peter Gápa 3+0; Stuart Kerr 1+1; Ewan Anderson 1+0; Ross Murray 1+0; Struan Tonnar 0+2; Kieran Hair 0+1; Lewis Houston 0+1; Michael Thomson 0+1; Ben Coughtrie 0+1; Scott Crane 0+1; Scott Henderson 0+1; Richard Bentham 0+1

SOG: Calum Hepburn 25 (6 / 8 / 11)

Stars Stats:

Finn Bradon 2+0; James Moss 1+1; Shaun Galloway 0+2; Tommy Spraggon 0+1

SOG: Thomas Brown 31 (8 / 12 / 11)

 

Another fast start at home to Widnes Wild on Sunday evening saw Billingham in front in the fifth minute, Bradon knocking home a Galloway rebound on the backhand. With a little bit of luck the home side could have moved further ahead but Chris Sykes found the bar twice. An interference call against Patriks Grigors gave Widnes an opportunity to bounce back and they did just that through a scrambled goal scored by Vlads Vulkanovs in the tenth minute.

Both sides pushed for the breakthrough at the start of the second, eventually Sykes found the back of the net from the face off in the 26th minute. Billingham were punished immediately for a big slash from Joe Dowdle in the 29th minute as Vulkanovs netted directly from the face off to start the powerplay. The Stars still finding no luck in front of the net, it was Wild who edged ahead at the break when Richard Haggar skipped into space and dinked the puck over Stars netminder Tom Brown in the 34th minute.

Consecutive penalties called against Wild’s Tom Stubley gave Billingham the chance to apply some pressure in the final session as they pushed for an elusive equaliser. Harrison Walker in the Widnes net was keeping all at bay however, and to add insult to injury it was Stubley who bagged the fourth for the visitors in the 54th minute and ultimately make the points safe. That defeat coupled with results elsewhere means Billingham can finish no higher than sixth and will face third-placed Widnes in the playoffs in a few weeks’ time.

Man-of-the-Match for the Stars was Tommy Spraggon.

 

Stars Stats:

Chris Sykes 1+0; Finn Bradon 1+0; Shaun Galloway 0+1; Callum Wilkinson 0+1; Joe Dowdle 0+1

SOG: Thomas Brown 35 (10 / 14 / 11)

Wild Stats:

Vlads Vulkanovs 2+1; Richard Haggar 1+1; Tom Stubley 1+0; Michael Gilbert 0+2; Nathan Britton 0+1; Chris Wilcox 0+1; Daniel Haid 0+1

SOG: Harrison Walker 50 (17 / 14 / 19)

 

Speaking after Sunday’s game, Stars Head Coach Stephen Foster knows his side need to take the positives from the weekend:

“We created lots of opportunities to score in both games this weekend but especially tonight we’ve come up against a great goalie in Harrison Walker, he’s had our mark all year and he always gives them [Wild] a great chance to win games. If we were getting to the end of the game having not created any chances, that’s when we would be worried but clearly we need to be more clinical in front of the net like Gápa last night and bury our chances when they come along. We will be bearing down in training to work on our shooting and getting more traffic in front of the net. We will use next week’s game at Whitley to work on some things and create the belief that we can overcome Widnes and get to the finals at Leeds.”

Billingham finish their regular National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 season with a derby game at Whitley Warriors next Sunday 10th April, face off 5pm.

 

Weekend Results:

NIHL(N)1:

Solway Sharks 6 Billingham Stars 3

Whitley Warriors 9 Nottingham Lions 0

Billingham Stars 2 Widnes Wild 4

Solihull Barons 14 Blackburn Hawks 2

 

Image galleries available via the Stars Facebook page courtesy of Linda Crabtree and Colin Edwards, CJE Photos.