Last gasp thriller steals the points !

In front of a packed Billingham Forum Ice Arena the Ultimate Windows sponsored Billingham Stars pulled off a 4 – 3 shock win over Whitley Warriors in the latest Tyne Tees derby, a thrilling climax saw the Stars bounce back from being 3-1 down with under three minutes to play. 

Billingham opened the scoring against the flow of the game on the six minute mark Michael Bowman picked out Stephen Wallace in front of the Warriors net , Wallace lifted the puck over the shoulder of the Whitley goalie to open the Stars account.

Andy Thornton tests Richie Lawson in the Warriors goal.

Andy Thornton tests Richie Lawson in the Warriors goal.

Warriors tied the game two minutes later as Ryan Sample set up Jordan Barnes, a fast first session closed all square.

Whitley took the lead just past the halfway mark when Jamie Tinsley found himself on the end of a Karl Culley rebound, Tinsley slotted home to move the visitors 2 – 1 ahead by the second break.

Early in the third found Warriors short handed with Rob Wilson sitting out a 2 minute tripping call, Stars struggled to set up an effective power play and the Warriors played it off without loss. Whitley again found themselves short handed with a too many men on the ice bench minor. Again Stars could not find a way to make the advantage count and time after time Warriors cleared their zone.

With under 10 minutes to play a well placed draw back from Adam Reynolds found ex Billingham Star Karl Culley who slid the puck low under Stars keeper James Flavell to complete a classy move.

At 57.34 and with less than 3 minutes to play a remarkable come back began when Andy Thornton put the puck between the legs of Richie Lawson assisted by Scott Ward and Jack Davies. With Stars needing another goal to tie and capture a share of the points Coach Terry Ward picked the perfect moment to pull James Flavell from the Stars goal with Billingham having gained possession Flavell skated to his bench, Billingham applied some pressure before Whitley cleared their zone, Stars again took possession and moved into the Warriors zone, Scott Ward passed out from behind the goal the puck lifted and Michael Elder batted it down towards the goal Richie Lawson in the Warriors net made contact but did not get all of it and it looped into the net to tie the game.

Andy Thornton is congratulated by the Stars bench.

Andy Thornton is congratulated by the Stars bench.

 

The fans in the stands elation turned to euphoria forty seconds later when a Wallace pass found Richie Thornton creeping in from the point, Thornton fired into the roof of the net to seal a 4 – 3 victory and steal the points from the Warriors grasp.

Stars Head Coach Terry Ward revealed that in the final break he had asked his side for a big finish;

“We asked the boys for a big finish, we were up against it and we got it, it was amazing. We probably would’ve taken a point, the games against Whitley have all been close games, we were expecting a dogfight and that’s exactly what it was. We got a couple of daft penalties when we had them under pressure in the second period, we came out the last period we said we’d give away no penalties and work hard and put pressure on them and hopefully they would lose their discipline so we could really strike at them.”

“It was tit-for-tat – we caught them on the break and they caught us on the break so it evened itself out. 5 minutes from the end it was a different interview, but the guys never give in, ever – it’s never say die with this team. We worked hard, we dug the puck out, we scuffled and hacked away and we got it in front where it mattered.”

“The third line [of A. Thornton, Ward and J. Davies] were again the best line. Last week I’m sure the rest of the guys will agree they were the better line and this week they made the difference. Ours and Whitley’s first two lines counteracted each other, but I thought our third line was the stronger, mentally and physically.”

“It’s all in the mix [with Solway losing to Sutton] – we said at the start of the season that any team is capable of beating any other. If you’re not on song, you get beat. It happened to us last week and obviously it’s happened to Solway this week. We’ve come back in a big, big way tonight and we’re back to Blackburn next week, we’ve got to take the impetus forward from tonight into the Blackburn game.”

“The confidence in the dressing room will be sky-high, we’ll be really looking forward to next week’s game now – that’s ice hockey for you, it can change in a heartbeat and that’s what happened tonight.”

Simon Leach felt his side lost focus in the last few minutes;

“I just said to the boys that for 58 minutes of that game we were by far the better team from start to finish but games aren’t 58 minutes long, they’re 60. Once again we’ve gave a good position away where we’ve been in complete control – we’ve lost focus and concentration for a couple of minutes and, if I’m honest, we didn’t deserve to lose that game but you can’t switch off or go to sleep, especially when Billingham have to come out and play and they did that. One of the goals went in, everyone’s talking about it but I’ve got no complaints, I think these things even themselves out. People are saying it was knocked out of Richie’s hand but I didn’t see it and at the end of the day we shouldn’t have been in that position. I’m very disappointed that we couldn’t keep the focus and the concentration – all the things that we’d done well for the majority of the game we didn’t do in the last couple of minutes.”

“I thought we played absolutely fantastic. I’m so disappointed for the boys – to come to a derby and play like we did right up until the last couple of minutes of the game, that’s the frustrating thing. If the game was 58 minutes long we’d be walking out with a big smile on our faces but it’s not. We’ve got to make sure that we concentrate.”

“We could have gone second tonight with a game in hand on Billingham. I think the league positions are going to change quite a bit throughout the season because on any given night most teams can turn each other over. As a team we’re frustrated that we didn’t see it out, as a coach it’s frustrating and I know all the players are down, but we have to make sure we’re on it for 60 minutes. Every game is so tight and it’s mistakes or when people go to sleep or not doing your job that you get punished.”

“We looked at this group of games [against Solway last week, Billingham and Solway again next week] and we really wanted to take 4 points out of the 6 but that target’s gone now. For the majority of tonight I thought we were the better team but playing for 58 minutes isn’t long enough and everybody in this game knows that.”

 

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Jack Davies collected Billingham Stars Man of the Match with  Dan Harris taking it for the Warriors.

This weekend’s results leave the Stars in second place, four points behind Solway but with a game in hand on the Scots side. Sheffield Spartans win has seen them leapfrog Warriors with the loss at Billingham dropping the Tynesiders into fourth place.

Stars have no home game next weekend but are in action at Blackburn Ice Arena on Sunday 24th November, face off 17:45 face off.

Words: Andy Baxter; pictures Colin Lawson IceHockeyMedia

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