Stars 8 Metros 3
Ultimate Windows Billingham Stars travelled to face Trafford Metros knowing that the previous evening had seen Solway Sharks crowned the NIHL One (N) league champions after they routed Trafford 11- 0 in Dumfries.
With the league title decided Simon Leach had urged his side not to ease off as the season winds down.
An 8-3 win at Trafford for the travelling Stars extended their unbeaten run to 10 games.Â A slow start from Billingham saw Stars punished after only 3 minutes as Metros Czech import Tomas Hnilinca the opening goal.
Billingham tied the game when a Paul Windridge pass set up Karl Culley to beat an out of position Paul Maudsley in the Trafford goal. With less than 3 minutes of the first to play Mikey Elder edged the Stars ahead with a one timer assisted by Davies and Moss. Billingham youngster Jack Emmerson came close when his shot pinged the pipes with 10 seconds left on the clock; the first closed Trafford 1 Billingham 2.
The second opened with a roughing call on Stars Stephen Wallace, however Metros advantage was short lived as they were swiftly called for too many men.
With Wallaceâ€™s penalty over the Stars took control on the power play resulting in Michael Bowman shooting home Stars third, assisted by Stephen Wallace.
The productive pairing of Culley and Windridge moved the Stars further ahead as Culley skated from behind Metros net to pop number four past Maudsley. The second closed with the Stars 4 â€“ 1 ahead.
An early third period strike saw John Murray hit the home sides second on a breakaway.
Two goals in two minutes from Michael Bowman and Cal Davies took the Stars haul to 6 and Tom McDonald took over in the Trafford crease. However the Stars kept the goals coming with a James Udell marker and Mikey Elders second of the night.
With less than four minutes on the clock the stars were awarded a penalty shot following the Trafford goal being dislodged to deny Paul Windridge a goal.
Karl Culley skated to the centre ice but was saved by the Trafford keeper. With only a minute to play Metros Stephen Elliot pulled one back, the clock counted down to an 8 -3 road win for the Stars.
Stars Coach Simon Leach conceded that tonightâ€™s game wasnâ€™t a vintage Stars performance
â€œWe were below par in the first period, we lacked intensity, we didnâ€™t move the puck around very well and we allowed Trafford too much time on the puckâ€.
â€œPerhaps we went there expecting an easy ride, It was a comfortable win, but I know we are capable of better, Trafford outworked us in the first but we managed to steal the period 2-1â€
Simon congratulated Solway on their league title win;
â€œWe have said all along we hoped to be in a position to capitalise on any slip ups by Solway, that never happened, they have played consistently solid hockey all season , we congratulate them, and we look forward to the play offsâ€
Ben Davison collectedÂ StarsÂ Man of the Match, with John Murray taking it for the home side.
Billingham stars are next in action on Saturday March 23rd when Telford Titans visit Billingham Forums TFM Ice Arena, face off 6.30pm.
Many thanks to Ian Hanlon www.icehockeymedia.co.uk for the great pictures