Dennis Menaces Spartans Defence
ULTIMATE WINDOWS sponsored Billingham Stars completed their preseason campaign with a comprehensive 6-2 victory over National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 rivals Sheffield Spartans at the Billingham Forum on Saturday evening, new Swedish signing Dennis BostrÃ¶m netting a hat trick in his home debut.
Although missing key players, both sides were able to ice relatively strong line-ups for this final challenge game before the season starts in earnest next weekend. Sheffield travelled with new signing Martin Finkes, the Czech defensemanâ€™s registration having been processed in time for him to make his debut. It was the hosts who started the brighter, immediately putting the Spartans on the back foot with early scoring opportunities for Chris Sykes and Michael Elder. The early pressure told and the Stars were one up before the three minute mark when Scott Ward netted on the backhand after a clever short pass from captain Paul Windridge. The visitors showed flashes of danger on the breakaway, Will Barron missing an open net in the fifth minute. Sheffield were made to pay for that miss just seconds later when BostrÃ¶m fired a wrist shot into the top corner of Andy Bagshawâ€™s net straight from a face off in the Spartans defensive zone, the netminder given no chance for 2-0. It was dÃ©jÃ vu for Bagshaw in the ninth minute when BostrÃ¶m netted the goal of the evening with another top corner effort over his shoulder. Despite a power play opportunity later on in the period, Sheffield could not find a chink in Billinghamâ€™s armour and the session closed with the home side three goals to the good.
The Spartans got lucky in the first minute of the middle stanza, Scott Morris backhanding past James Flavell in the Stars net when the puck bounced kindly to him off Tom Keeleyâ€™s skate. Billingham restored their advantage in the 24th minute as last seasonâ€™s top goal scorer Elder slapped into the roof of Bagshawâ€™s net once again. The Sheffield netminderâ€™s water bottle was dancing once again in the 34th minute as BostrÃ¶m clinically found the top corner for the third time after some crisp set-up play from linemates Sykes and Michael Bowman. The Stars survived a late five-on-three Spartans power play thanks to a top-drawer glove save from Flavell and the period closed at 5-1.
Billingham kept up the pressure in the early stages of the final session, with chances for Callum Davies and Jack Emerson well saved by Bagshaw. An interference call on Ward gave Sheffield another opportunity with the extra man, and this time they made no mistake with a deflected Shaun Wild goal pegging the Stars back to 5-2 in the 43rd minute. The game opened up and flowed from end to end, neither side able to break through the otherâ€™s defences until the 54th minute when Luke Brown made sure of a winning start for the home side when he put the puck away underneath Bagshaw for a 6-2 final score.
Man-of-the-Match for the Stars was Dennis BostrÃ¶m.
Dennis BostrÃ¶m 3+0; Scott Ward 1+1; Luke Brown 1+0; Michael Elder 1+0; Michael Bowman 0+2; Paul Windridge 0+1; Chris Sykes 0+1; Richie Thornton 0+1
SOG James Flavell 30 (7 / 11 / 12)
Scott Morris 1+0; Shaun Wild 1+0; Nick Manning 0+1; Martin Finkes 0+1
SOG Andrew Bagshaw 44 (12 / 14 / 18)
Billinghamâ€™s Director of Coaching Terry Ward was especially pleased to see how well BostrÃ¶m is settling into his new line:
â€œWe canâ€™t really go wrong with those two preseason games. Hopefully weâ€™ve dusted off the cobwebs of the summer break with Blackburn next week. It was a great workout tonight – it was a tough game. Aberdeen was more of a â€˜getting to know each otherâ€™ exercise, this game we knew would be more serious, theyâ€™re a good hockey playing side. You canâ€™t take the night off against Sheffield or you will lose. I was really impressed with the lads tonight, I thought their attitude to the game was excellent. Our new star Dennis certainly put the puck in the net and impressed everybody!
The second goal from Dennis especially was a really good finish. Heâ€™s got a great shot on him and he picks those top corners. I was sat up the stands tonight so it was great for me to see. You see a whole different game up there than you do from the bench.
Dennis is on a line with Bowman and Sykes who are two good players. Getting him on the puck is the main thing and heâ€™s on a line with Bowman who can feed him. Bowman is a great hockey player who knows exactly what to do. Sykes has got that individual skill but heâ€™s also a great team player so itâ€™s nice to see them connect tonight.
We wonâ€™t be underestimating Blackburn next week, thereâ€™s no doubt about that. Weâ€™ve got a few scores to settle so weâ€™ll be trying to win that game. We thought we played really well in the playoff final and we were right in it, so weâ€™re looking forward to this game coming up.â€
With Ward watching from the stands, the bench contained the familiar figure of Garry Dowd, who hopes to help out the team whenever he can this season:
â€œI enjoyed standing on the bench tonight. I said I wouldnâ€™t be playing this year with me having my knee operation, it was nice to be asked to come down with being a Level 2 coach and help out with the lads.
I like to work with the younger players and try and bring them into the squad more, the likes of Matty Campbell, Jack Emerson and Luke Brown. I keep an eye on them and try to explain where theyâ€™re going wrong and try to put them right.
I look at everything, not just defence. When youâ€™re playing you have a different view to when youâ€™re spectating, you see the game from end to end. I know where the forwards need to go so I can help out and explain what they should be doing.
Iâ€™d been keen to help out if they asked me again. I want to stay involved in ice hockey, thatâ€™s why I renewed my Level 2 coaching badges. I couldnâ€™t commit 100%, Iâ€™ve got two kids who play ice hockey now so my time is with them. I work away a lot and Iâ€™m based in Sheffield so all the games around that way I can always meet the lads at Sheffield if needs be to help out the team.
Iâ€™m not sure how my knee operation has gone yet, itâ€™s only been three weeks since I had it, itâ€™s still early days. Itâ€™s definitely the end of my playing career, Iâ€™m not getting any younger and injuries are much harder to get over. Coaching is the way I will be staying involved.
Weâ€™ve added Dennis to the same squad as last year pretty much so itâ€™s a good core to build on. It was a good game tonight, we need to cut out our mistakes but itâ€™s early days – cut out those mistakes and I think weâ€™ll have a very good season.â€
The Stars face reigning League and playoff champions Blackburn Hawks in their opening National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 fixture at the Billingham Forum next Sunday 6th September, face off 6.30pm.
All images courtesy of Dean Reeve Photography. Click here for the gallery.