Battling Stars Sting Sutton
ULTIMATE WINDOWS sponsored Billingham Stars were made to battle hard on their return to the Forum on Sunday evening, eventually overcoming Sutton Sting 4-2 and move themselves up to fifth in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1.
Looking to continue where they left off against the Sting the previous weekend, Billingham were able to ice a full bench and kept the lines from their 1-3 victory at iceSheffield. Although Captain Paul Windridge forced a save from Sutton goaltender Dmitri Zimozdra with little over a minute gone, it was the visitors who began the brighter and found themselves with a golden opportunity to get their noses in front when referee Dave Emmerson sent first Richie Thornton and then Tom Keeley to the sinbin to give the Sting a two-man advantage. The Stars successfully killed one penalty, the returning Thornton almost scoring on the backhand, but eventually Sutton made their numerical advantage tell and opened the scoring in the fifth minute when James Spurr poked the puck underneath the glove of James Flavell in the Billingham net. The goal sparked the hosts to life and it took just two minutes for them to get the equaliser, Swedish forward Dennis BostrÃ¶m collecting the puck on the spin and sending a bullet of a shot past Zimozdra from the centre of the offensive zone. Billingham found themselves a man down once more in the 11th minute but continued to press forward, in-form James Moss pinging an effort off the bar after collecting a loose pass in the Sting defensive zone, and BostrÃ¶m forcing the save after breaking clear at speed. The latter stages of the period belonged to the home side, Luke Brown seeing his shot well-saved from four metres out, and Michael Bowman putting wide a gilt-edged opportunity after being set up by Moss to leave the sides level at the interval.
The Stars went ahead for the first time in the 22nd minute, Chris Sykes breaking away from the neutral zone and dummying the last defenseman before slotting into the bottom corner. Their joy was short-lived, just 22 seconds later Richard Oliver replied for the visitors as the Billingham defence allowed him time and space to slot one underneath Flavell. The Teessiders piled forward to try and get an immediate response, Bowman and Michael Elder both going close. The Stars thought they had broken the deadlock in the 27th minute whilst on the power play, but the â€˜goalâ€™ was washed out for having a man in the crease. Billingham found themselves on a five-minute penalty kill in the 30th minute when defenseman Andy Finn was sent for an early shower with a game misconduct for slashing. The hosts absorbed everything that Sutton could throw at them, Flavell saving at point-blank range in the 33rd minute. The Stars had only just returned to full strength when Stingâ€™s Ryan Johnson went to the box on a 2+10 penalty for a hit to the head that left Billinghamâ€™s Andy Munroe prone on the ice for some minutes. A further late minor penalty against Sutton import Sergevs Jegorovs provided a chance for the home side to go back in front, but the closest they came was a Matthew Campbell slap shot that ricocheted off the post.
The Stars came flying out of the blocks at the beginning of the third session and got the go-ahead goal just 36 seconds in, BostrÃ¶m again on the turn and blasting past Zimozdra for 3-2. Their tails up, Billingham moved further ahead in the 43rd minute, BostrÃ¶m turning provider and setting up Moss perfectly for a tap-in at the near post. The quick scores clearly rattled the Sting who called an immediate time out to try and settle their side but it was the Stars who continued to test Zimozdra, Elder going close on the backhand as he followed up a Callum Davies rebound. Sutton briefly troubled the home side around the 45-minute mark, Flavell with a flurry of saves, but Billingham were quick to regain control and despite a further five-on-three power play for the visitors they were able to see off the remainder of the period comfortably for a 4-2 win in front of the Forum faithful.
Man-of-the-Match for the Stars was Dennis BostrÃ¶m.
Dennis BostrÃ¶m 2+1; James Moss 1+1; Chris Sykes 1+0; Michael Bowman 0+2; Andy Munroe 0+1; Callum Davies 0+1
SOG James Flavell 33 (11 / 13 / 9)
Richard Oliver 1+1; James Spurr 1+0; John Ross 0+1; Simon Offord 0+1; Carl Ashton 0+1
SOG Dmitri Zimozdra 41 (11 / 14 / 16)
Billinghamâ€™s Director of Coaching Terry Ward praised his sideâ€™s monumental penalty killing exploits:
â€œI donâ€™t think it was Mr Emmersonâ€™s best night as far as we were concerned but weâ€™ve got to get over that, weâ€™ve got to come forward, weâ€™ve got to work extra hard when youâ€™re a man down and all credit to the lads â€“ they gave everything they had. In the last period when we were at full strength we got two quick goals and that killed them off.
The lads worked really hard tonight. On one of the five-on-threes we were all over them, we didnâ€™t deserve to be down to three men so it would have been justice if weâ€™d scored. All credit to the lads, we were aggressive in our play in that we were forcing them all the time â€“ aggressive on the body and aggressive on the play and forcing them to make decisions they didnâ€™t want to make because we had a man on them straight away. When we were down to three the guys just worked their socks off, it was tremendous work rate.
We said in the dressing room at the end of the second that we couldnâ€™t let the refereeing decisions get in our heads, we had to make sure that we had a better game, and I thought we were outstanding in the third period.
Dennis scored a couple of great goals tonight and he laid one off onto James Moss who took it brilliantly. All credit to Dennis, heâ€™s had a great game tonight.
The third line tonight did a lot of the hard work, a lot of bumping and grinding which is what we wanted them to do. Theyâ€™ve come off the ice and theyâ€™ve given everything.
It wonâ€™t be easy to go to Solihull next week. They have a large crowd who get right behind them all the way but we can silence that by going and playing our best hockey and taking the game to them.
The crowd got right behind us tonight. As I said last week when we were at iceSheffield our fans were right behind us then and they were fantastic. Tonight again â€“ itâ€™s just like having an extra man and if they can just keep that going for us, keep lifting us, it gets the guys wanting to play harder and harder.â€
Suttonâ€™s Ian Johnson felt that tiredness had cost his side the chance to capitalise on their numerous power play opportunities:
â€œI canâ€™t complain with how the lads have played. We were short-benched with quite a few regular guys out and we knew it was going to be tough. I thought the first two periods we saw some great hockey similar to at iceSheffield, end-to-end with plenty of commitment. We got a five-minute power play with a slash from Andy Finn which was the right call because I think weâ€™d have gone on and scored, but we were tired. At that point weâ€™d been running two lines all night and I think the lads used the penalty as a bit of a breather. We didnâ€™t shoot enough â€“ weâ€™ve had 33 shots tonight with 41 against. Flav made some big saves â€“ he made one toe save at the end off Ryan Johnson. But it is what it is, weâ€™ve worked hard, weâ€™ve made mistakes again and similarly theyâ€™ve come in our end. Fair play to BostrÃ¶m heâ€™s got a fair old shot on him, he found the top corner no sweat at all. Iâ€™m gutted, the lads are gutted, and Iâ€™m gutted for them but weâ€™ll crack on.
Richie Oliver has been struggling to find the net and our second goal, I donâ€™t care where you watch ice hockey, itâ€™s probably one of the best goals youâ€™ll see. We worked hard to turn the puck over, but for Richie to actually find the back of the net and beat Flavell like he did, he was superb. At that point I thought â€˜weâ€™ve got a bit of luck going here, weâ€™ll be alrightâ€™. Usual thing happened, same team talk, everything positive at the end of the second, but I was looking around the room and everyone was tired. We brought the young lads with us and we tried to get them out but itâ€™s just difficult â€“ the League is very very tough. The minute you give anybody an advantage theyâ€™re going to take it and weâ€™re victims again of our own mistakes.â€
The Stars travel to the Midlands to face Solihull Barons next Sunday 15th November, face off 6pm.
Solway Sharks 6 Solihull Barons 4
Whitley Warriors 6 Sheffield Spartans 0
Telford Tigers NIHL 9 Solihull Barons 4
Billingham Stars 4 Sutton Sting 2
Blackburn Hawks 4 Solway Sharks 2
Images courtesy of Ryan Deprez