â€˜Frustratingâ€™ Stars Slump to Seventh
ULTIMATE WINDOWS sponsored Billingham Stars were made to pay for mistakes and missed chances as their recent good form in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 came to an abrupt halt with a 6-3 defeat at Solihull Barons on Sunday evening.
The long trip to the Midlands got off to a poor start for the Stars, Director of Coaching Terry Ward and defensive lynchpin Richie Thornton caught up in traffic and unable to make the game. Without the required number of Level Two coaches on the bench, Billingham were forced to rely upon the home side to provide them with a suitably qualified coach so that Michael Bowman could dress for the game. The game started with some end-to-end hockey but it was the Stars who were first on the scoresheet in the second minute when Jack Davies put away the loose puck after an initial shot from Luke Brown was saved by Sam Hewitt in the Barons net. Just under two minutes later, the Barons got themselves level with the equaliser through Edward Eaton. A holding penalty on Billinghamâ€™s Callum Davies in the sixth minute was almost immediately cancelled out as just 11 seconds later Solihullâ€™s Phil Knight impeded Michael Bowman illegally and found himself in the box on an interference call. On the resulting four-on-four play, Ben Davison got the Stars noses back in front with a great solo effort, turning on the speed down centre ice and beating three men before putting the puck away. Again the home side came straight back with an equaliser as two Billingham forwards left the puck for Joe Henry to set up Josh Bruce in the seventh minute. The Stars tried to respond immediately, Michael Elder shooting just wide, but it was just as Billingham returned to full strength that the home side took the lead, Niklas Ottosson beating Stars netminder James Flavell up high on the blocker side with a wrist shot for 3-2. The frantic nature of the period continued as Davison almost got one straight back for the visitors, and a spell of pressure from the Billingham third line saw shots rain in on Hewitt. The Stars could not make any of their efforts count and it was the Barons who extended their lead in the tenth minute, Captain Rob Eley getting his name on the scoresheet. The game slowed down for the second half of the period, James Moss with a couple of attempts for the visitors whilst the in-form Tom Soar tested Flavell on the breakaway in the 17th minute, but his pad stop kept the score at 4-2 going into the break.
Billingham started the middle session pinned into their own zone but were working well defensively. A slashing call on Andy Munroe in the 23rd minute should have had the Teessiders on the back foot, but it was Moss with the best opportunity when he shot high and wide whilst on the penalty kill. General play became scrappy as the period wore on, with few clear-cut chances for either side. Jack Davies did hit the post after some great work by Stars Captain Paul Windridge, and Tom Soar could not get enough of a stick on a chance and it went wide. Ottosson on the backhand forced a great save from Flavell after ghosting past the Billingham defence, and just seconds later Solihull were three up, a defensive error leading to an easy tap-in for Bruce in the 37th minute and a mountain for the Stars to climb in the final stanza.
The third period saw early chances for the Barons through Soar and Knight, but Billingham were not done yet, Brown hitting the post on the backhand following a spell of pressure and a further chance for Jack Davies. Hewitt made a stick save from Moss and Andy Finn saw a long wrist shot kicked away. The Stars finally got some reward with a power play goal in the 50th minute, Tom Keeley slapping home after a Davison shot went wide and found Keeley at the opposite point. The visitorsâ€™ joy was short-lived â€“ seconds later a contentious high sticks minor was called against Callum Davies. On the resulting power play, a one-time effort from Ryan Selwood appeared to hit both posts before Flavell covered the puck. The goal judge did not light his lamp but referee Juris Susters gave the goal that restored the hostsâ€™ advantage and took the fight out of Billingham. Unable to create any late pressure, the Stars succumbed to a 6-3 defeat that sees them slump to seventh in the table.
Man-of-the-Match for the Stars was Ben Davison.
Josh Bruce 2+1; Ryan Selwood 1+0; Edward Eaton 1+0; Rob Eley 1+0; Niklas Ottosson 1+0; David Rogers 0+1; Joe Henry 0+1; Tomas Janak 0+1; Thomas Soar 0+1; Charlie Hammerton 0+1
SOG Sam Hewitt 29 (14 / 6 / 9)
Ben Davison 1+1; Tom Keeley 1+0; Jack Davies 1+0; Paul Windridge 0+1; Luke Brown 0+1; Callum Davies 0+1
SOG James Flavell 40 (14 / 16 / 10)
Billinghamâ€™s General Manager Allen Flavell was â€˜frustratedâ€™ by his sideâ€™s finishing:
â€œIâ€™m very disappointed. First period I thought we were still on the bus, they scored some really soft goals and there were a few people who just didnâ€™t show up tonight. The second period we started to get on top a little bit but we still couldnâ€™t make it count, we just couldnâ€™t finish tonight. We were relying on the defence to score the goals and that just wasnâ€™t good enough as far as the team went.
Ben Davison got Man-of-the-Match and I thought he had an outstanding game. Tom Keeley was playing with a sore hand and he still managed to put a slap shot away. Andy Munroe at the back also had a good game. I thought the defence played pretty well but unfortunately we got caught flat-footed a couple of times and they punished us. We had lots of possession and plenty of shots on their goal but we just couldnâ€™t make it count.
We need to work on our finishing this week in training. It just doesnâ€™t need to be one-on-one with the goalie, youâ€™ve got to look for the pass, youâ€™ve got to pass it across. We had numerous opportunities tonight but for whatever reason it bobbled, it jumped over the stick, we just couldnâ€™t put it to bed â€“ frustrating is the only word for it, a frustrating night.â€
The Stars host Solway Sharks in a National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 encounter next Sunday 22nd November, face off 6.30pm.
Sheffield Spartans 1 Solway Sharks 2
Telford Tigers NIHL 7 Sheffield Senators 2
Sutton Sting 2 Solway Sharks 4
Solihull Barons 6 Billingham Stars 3
Sheffield Spartans 2 Whitley Warriors 1