Stars Out-Battle Barons For Crucial Win
ULTIMATE WINDOWS sponsored Billingham Stars completed their revenge mission over play-off rivals Solihull Barons with a vital 4-6 victory in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 at Hobs Moat Road last night.
Travelling to the Midlands off the back of a confidence-boosting Cup win over Widnes Wild at the Forum on Saturday night, Billingham replaced Mark Watson with James Flavell between the pipes. The early exchanges were scrappy with plenty of icing and offside calls as both teams struggled to find any rhythm. A Flavell blocker save from Solihull’s Joe Henry was followed by a flurry of saves to deny Niklas Ottosson in the third minute, a spell that seemed to shake the Stars to life. Swedish sharp-shooter Dennis BostrÃ¶m opened the scoring in the fourth minute with a low shot that beat Barons netminder Josh Nicholls, then almost doubled the lead just 70 seconds later but Nicholls was equal to the point-blank range, one-time effort. The visitors looked hungry and eventually did double the lead in the eighth minute when Michael Elder got the puck and waited for his moment before shooting across the netminder and into the top corner. Less than half a minute later the home side were rocked when Elder poached his second for 0-3, prompting the bench to pull Nicholls and replace him with back-up netminder Sam Hewitt. A crazy three minutes followed that saw Solihull bring themselves level with three goals from David Rogers, Thomas Soar and Joe Henry, the Billingham defence looking all at sea. With five goals scored in less than four minutes, both sides tried to calm things down and the goal fest dried up. A spate of minor penalties interrupted the flow of the game, and despite some late chances for Elder and Sykes the score line remained level until the end of the session.
Jack Davies withdrew from the game at the interval as a precaution, Jack Emerson taking his slot on the BostrÃ¶m/Moss line. The Stars came out fired up, Cal Davies testing Hewitt in the 23rd minute with a blast from five metres. A few minutes later and BostrÃ¶m got the breakthrough with a goal seemingly out of nothing â€“ with the Barons changing on the fly, Flavell collected the puck and fired it up the left wing to Cal Davies who tapped it to the lurking BostrÃ¶m. BostrÃ¶mâ€™s quick release shot into the top corner was too good for Hewitt, Flavell with a rare netminder assist on the goal. Billingham had their tails up and Cal Davies grabbed what proved to be the game winner in the 28th minute when he rounded everyone in front of him to slot past Hewitt for 3-5. The hosts were not done yet and Josh Bruce was the man on the spot to collect the rebound and shoot into the unguarded net just a minute later. A repeat of the first period goal avalanche seemed like it might be on the cards when Solihull pinged the post seconds after scoring, but the Stars settled and tightened things back up to frustrate the home side. A slashing call against Tomas Janak handed Billingham a power play opportunity, and it did not go to waste as BostrÃ¶m netted his hat trick marker in the 35th minute, firing into the roof of Hewittâ€™s net with such speed that the goalkeeper barely had time to react. A little daylight between the teams gave the Stars something to defend and they shut up shop for the remainder of the period.
As expected, the Barons came out for the final session looking to get the early goal to put them back in the game. Flavell was in imperious form however, a glove save denying a Solihull breakaway in the 44th minute. The home sideâ€™s progress was hampered by a series of minor penalties, but with Billingham unable to capitalise the threat remained and the pressure built on the Stars net as the period wore on. The Stars were not without chances of their own and had numerous opportunities turned away by Hewitt, an Andy Finn blue line slap shot well held in the 54th minute, but it was Flavell at the other end making the headline saves and keeping his side in front. With nothing to lose, the Barons called a time-out in the final minute and withdrew Hewitt, but the extra man made little difference with Solihull unable to get a shot on target and it was Billingham celebrating at the final buzzer, the 4-6 victory moving them up to fifth in the table and closing the gap between themselves and the play-off places.
Man-of-the-Match for the Stars was James Flavell.
Joe Henry 1+1, Thomas Soar 1+1, David Rogers 1+0, Josh Bruce 0+1, Ryan Selwood 0+1, Tomas Janak 0+1, Niklas Ottosson 0+1
SOG Josh Nicholls 6 Sam Hewitt 35 (5 / 10 / 20)
Dennis BostrÃ¶m 3+0, Michael Elder 2+0, Callum Davies 1+3, Chris Sykes 0+3, James Moss 0+1, Andy Munroe 0+1, James Flavell 0+1
SOG James Flavell 43 (18 / 14 / 11)
Billingham’s Director of Coaching Terry Ward was delighted to see his side come away with the points from a difficult rink:
“It was a big result for us. Obviously we had a 3-0 lead and then they came back to 3-3 – we just had to regroup in the dressing room. We were quite positive about it because it really meant we were 0-0 for the rest of the game! We had to make sure we went out there and tightened our belts up a little bit and do the job in hand. I think the guys did that tremendously.
We had the stuffing knocked out of us a little at 3-3 but they’re a good side and in their rink they’re always going to score goals. I said to the lads: we need to be there, we need to be positive – let’s get back out there, let’s get back on the bike and start riding it again. Let’s shut them down a little bit and pick that man up that we weren’t picking up, that third man high. I think we did that really well. I think the lads done themselves proud in the second and third period.
Everyone to a man worked their socks off tonight. If you want to come to Solihull – sitting where they are in third place at the moment – and get something then you’ve got to work hard and grind and that’s exactly what we did.
They’re used to playing an open game here – I know the two imports are very good, they were getting more frustrated than anybody because they weren’t getting that puck. We just kept putting it behind them and letting their defence do the work, then we forced their defence and made sure that they weren’t going to come out with the puck and set their forwards up.
Tonight is nothing that you wouldn’t expect from James Flavell – he sets his standards so high and tonight those standards were really high. Dennis has come back and I think he needed that game last night to get himself back on track. You give him a little bit of room and he’s going to put that puck in the back of the net – tonight he just showed how good he really is at putting that puck away.
The game next week against Sutton is going to be a tough one. Yes they’re second from bottom at the moment but they’ve only been losing games by one or two goals in the main so we’ve got to be on form again next week. They are a good side, give them the opportunity and they’ll take it – we can’t go there thinking they’re second-bottom so we’re going to win. In this League it’s not like that – you take time off and you lose. I think the game on Sunday is an easier prospect for us, we expect to get the two points there, but we have to go to Sutton and grind like we did tonight.
We need to get our act together before Christmas and make life easier for ourselves after Christmas. To be fair we have been unlucky in quite a few games – we should have won both of the Telford games but we lost, we should have won the Solihull game at home but we lost. Those are the games we should be winning to put ourselves in a better position in the League, not where we are now.”
Solihull Player-Coach Perry Doyle could not hide his frustration as he saw another two points slip:
“It’s just so frustrating for me. We’ve got such a high calibre of players and we’re just doing the simple things wrong. We come out for the third period and we weren’t ready. Fair play to Billingham – they came out and they were flying, they worked for 60 minutes. In that first period we did nothing for the first ten minutes and it was so frustrating. We’re not doing the simple things – we’re leaving the high man, they got three goals from the high man that we didn’t pick up and it’s just really frustrating. Fair play to Billingham, they got the two points, we’ll just regroup this week and go through a few things again.
We scored three good goals but we just don’t keep going for the full 60 minutes, we were out worked in our end. We’re not a bad team, we’re a good team – as good as any in this League – but we’re just not performing for the full 60 minutes and doing the simple things that we should be doing.
I was out of order last week saying it was individuals – we win as a team and we lose as a team – we’ve just got to pull together and certain guys know what they need to do.”
The Stars face another huge two games in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 next weekend as they travel to iceSheffield to face Sutton Sting on Saturday 16th January (face off 7.30pm), followed by a home tie with bottom side Sheffield Senators on Sunday 17th January (face off 6.30pm).
Sheffield Spartans 2 Blackburn Hawks 15
Telford Tigers NIHL 4 Sutton Sting 2
Solway Sharks 14 Sheffield Senators 0
Sutton Sting 4 Telford Tigers NIHL 2
Blackburn Hawks 4 Whitley Warriors 3
Solihull Barons 4 Billingham Stars 6
Billingham Stars 7 Widnes Wild 3
Images to follow.