Mistakes Cost Stars Dear

ULTIMATE WINDOWS sponsored Billingham Stars crashed to their second zero point weekend of the season in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 as they succumbed to Telford Tigers and Solihull Barons.

Karol Jets opens the scoring

Karol Jets opens the scoring

The Stars made the long trip to Shropshire on Saturday with a full bench to face a Telford side that had narrowly beaten them in a high-intensity game at the Forum two weeks previously. The visitors appeared slow out of the blocks and were almost immediately on the back foot, Karol Jets left free in front of the net with less than a minute played to put the puck just inside the top corner and give the home side the perfect start. Billingham’s woes deepened in the fourth minute when a speculative shot from Philip Mulcahy went straight through netminder James Flavell for 2-0. The Teessiders gradually shook off their early lethargy and began to find their rhythm, James Moss testing Denis Bell in the Tigers net in the ninth minute and Chris Sykes hitting Bell in the face mask with a bullet of a shot in the 13th minute. Telford defenseman Joshua Hustwick was made to pay for slashing the stick from the hands of Swedish forward Dennis Boström with exactly 14 minutes gone, an offence punished just ten seconds into the resulting power play when Michael Elder lifted the puck over Bell to bring the Stars back into the game, the score 2-1 at the interval.

Denis Bell saves again

Denis Bell saves again

A scoreless middle period saw Billingham go on the offensive to try and wear their well-drilled opponents down. Elder hit the inside of the post in the 22nd minute when he robbed the puck in the neutral zone and surged forward. Michael Bowman found himself clear on goal in the 26th minute but chose to pass to Moss instead of taking the shot, Moss’ effort well saved by Bell. Boström, Elder and Ben Davison all saw further chances saved before the halfway mark, the visitors dominance not converted into goals. The hosts looked fast and dangerous on the breakaway, Flavell saving well from Adam Taylor in the 30th minute, but by and large the puck spent the majority of the time in the Billingham offensive zone with more chances for Tom Keeley, Elder and Bowman before the buzzer. A scuffle just before the break saw Tigers’ Bradley Betteridge and Sykes despatched to the sinbin for a long spell, Sykes with the additional penalty for holding the face mask.

Mikey makes it 2-1

Mikey makes it 2-1

The Stars piled on the pressure in the final period, hoping to get something out of the game. Boström went close with a wraparound attempt in the 44th minute, and a fast Elder breakout was almost finished by Luke Brown in the 49th minute. The last ten minutes saw the home net under siege, but the closest Billingham got was in the 56th minute when a pass from behind the net set up Scott Ward, but his shot was straight at the keeper. The Stars called a timeout with just over a minute remaining and pulled Flavell to give them the extra man, but the game ended in controversial fashion: with 40 seconds to go Boström surged through the Telford defence and appeared to be tripped when clean on goal. Referee Hamilton did not raise his arm and the Tigers were able to collect the puck and fire into the open goal for a 3-1 final score, the Billingham bench left fuming.

Man-of-the-Match for the Stars was Andy Munroe.

Tigers Stats:

Karol Jets 1+1; Philip Mulcahy 1+0; Daniel Croft 1+0; Bradley Betteridge 0+1; Joshua Hustwick 0+1; Joe Aston 0+1; Matthew Lees 0+1; Callum Bowley 0+1

SOG Denis Bell 30 (8 / 9 / 13)

Stars Stats:

Michael Elder 1+0; James Moss 0+1; Chris Sykes 0+1

SOG James Flavell 22 (8 / 8 / 6)

Your Stars MOM - Andy Munroe

Your Stars MOM – Andy Munroe

Billingham Director of Coaching Terry Ward felt his side’s poor start had cost them the game:

“We weren’t prepared for the game at the start, we were still on the bus. We didn’t set up quickly at all. We were two goals behind and we were chasing those two goals from then onwards. We got one back and at the end we pulled our goalie to try and match it up – Dennis had great possession at the end there and went looking for the shot, got tripped, that decision wasn’t called. Dennis demonstrated and got called straight away. These decisions sometimes go against you – everybody was here to see the trip but obviously the referee says he didn’t.

The two goals that we gave away weren’t the best – we shouldn’t have given those away but we did. We were battling then to score the goals to win the game. Credit to their goalie again – he stood on his head, he had a great game. We’ve hit the post twice yet again – that luck will turn around for us eventually, we are working hard enough, we just didn’t work hard enough at the start of the game.

Sometimes the luck goes with you as it did for Telford tonight, sometimes it goes against you like it did for us. The lads are absolutely gutted that we’ve lost this game, especially in controversial circumstances. But we’ve got to pick ourselves up and come prepared tomorrow to play Solihull and make sure we get the points.”

The Stars returned to the Forum on Sunday to take on Solihull Barons, promoted as unbeaten champions last season. Missing Richie Thornton from the line-up, Billingham looked to take the game to the Barons early on, Elder unlucky not to open the scoring with a double attempt on goal in the third minute. Solihull showed their intent also, Flavell called upon to save one-on-one from Niklas Ottosson in the sixth minute. It was the visitors who were first onto the scoresheet in the seventh minute when an error in the defensive zone gave Joe Henry the opportunity to shoot at the near post, Flavell got across well to save but the rebound fell kindly to Josh Bruce who was free to tip it in. Once again finding themselves behind, the Stars came forward and were rewarded in the 16th minute when James Moss broke from the Billingham defensive zone and collected his own rebound to slot home into the bottom corner. Chances for Boström and Elder were well saved by Barons netminder Josh Nicholls to leave the game tied at the interval.

The visitors came out for the second period much the better team, a kick save required to keep out Ottosson with less than half a minute gone. Solihull had just returned to full strength following a penalty against David Rogers when Henry put them back in the lead when he knocked in a rebound off the post. They extended that lead to two a little over two minutes later on the power play, Bruce poaching his second of the evening with yet another far post tip-in. An immediate reaction was needed, and the home fans got exactly that when just 46 seconds later captain Paul Windridge brought his side right back into it with a top corner effort from the tightest of angles. End-to-end play ensued, the only chance of note falling to Callum Davies who shot over the bar in the 33rd minute to take the teams into the dressing rooms with the Barons still a goal to the good.

Sniffing victory, Solihull came flying out of the blocks in the final session, Flavell keeping the home side in the game with a string of saves. His efforts were rewarded in the 47th minute when Matthew Campbell blasted the Stars level with a rocket shot into the roof of Nicholls’ net. Billingham pressed for the winner, tricky play in front of goal giving Bowman half a chance in the 53rd minute, but Nicholls remained resolute. The hosts’ hard work was undone in the final two minutes as first Flavell came out of his net but his attempted clearance found Ottosson who slotted past him into the open goal, then another defensive howler let in Thomas Soar to kill the game, 3-5 the final score.

Your Stars MOM

Your Stars MOM

Man-of-the-Match for the Stars was James Moss.

Stars Stats:

Matthew Campbell 1+1; James Moss 1+0; Paul Windridge 1+0; Michael Elder 0+1; Callum Davies 0+1

SOG James Flavell 46 (10 / 17 / 19)

Barons Stats:

Josh Bruce 2+1; Joe Henry 1+2; Thomas Soar 1+0; Niklas Ottosson 1+0; Tomas Janak 0+3; Edward Eaton 0+1; Perry Doyle 0+1

SOG Josh Nicholls 35 (13 / 11 / 11)


Ward indicated that changes would be made after another loss:

“It’s a tough loss to take. We’d got ourselves back into it, we were dominating proceedings and we felt quite comfortable that we would go on to win the game, but two mistakes, two turnovers and all of a sudden you’re looking at a loss.

From their first goal we came back into things – I thought the second period was ours, and the third too but obviously the last couple of minutes was devastating for us. To make those two mistakes like we did, sometimes it just happens in sport but it doesn’t sweeten the pill. I think the lads played well over the weekend but they’ve come away with nothing. I’m sure we’ll play a lot worse and come away with points.

There’s no easy games in this League, if you make mistakes you get punished and that’s exactly what’s happened to us. I think we’ve lost four or five games now where mistakes have happened on our part and we’ve been punished badly for it. They seem to happen at really costly times in the game too.

Hopefully our luck will turn and we can go to Whitley and get something out of it. Whitley are a very good side so it’s up to us to be on top of our game. There’ll be changes coming this week – lines, formations and tactics – that we will be looking at in training this week.”

Solihull Player-Coach Perry Doyle felt his team had worked hard for the points:

“It was a good two points so we’ve had a four-point weekend which is really good for us. We’re getting rid of the bad habits that we’ve had for the last two seasons, just winning games which has been no good for us as a team. But I think this weekend we’ve really pulled together and looked well. But Billingham looked well too – it was end-to-end hockey and a good game.

We’re finding our feet in this division now. Every team is going to take points off each other so it’s going to be a great year for everyone.”

The Stars are at Hillheads for the first North East derby of the season next Sunday 25th October when they take on Whitley Warriors, face off 5pm.


Weekend results:

Sheffield Senators 3 v Solihull Barons 7

Telford Tigers NIHL 3 Billingham Stars 1

Solway Sharks 2 Blackburn Hawks 7

Sheffield Spartans 6 Telford Tigers NIHL 2

Sutton Sting 2 Whitley Warriors 3

Sheffield Senators 1 Solway Sharks 9

Billingham Stars 3 Solihull Barons 5


Tigers photos courtesy of Dean Black.

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