Billingham Stars and Whitley Warriors enjoyed contrasting fortunes in NIHL North this weekend as they took on Blackburn Hawks.
After matching the reigning Moralee D1 champions for two periods, Billingham were undone by a three-goal blitz in the final session which sealed a 5-2 win for Blackburn.
Stars’ Director of Coaching Terry Ward commented: “We were with them all the time – in fact I think we were the better team in the first two periods. I think they were shocked, they didn’t realise how much we had improved from the start of the year and the lads played really well.
“Spike (Paul Windridge) got injured and then Bomber (Michael Bowman) got hurt as well so we were struggling.
“We had to mix and match the lines a little bit and bring some of the youngsters in. We switched off for about five minutes and made a couple of mistakes and that was it – game over.
“All credit to the young lads in the team – it’s all about learning the game. They’ve played against Blackburn tonight and none of the mistakes for the goals came from them.
“They worked their socks off for the team which is what I’ve asked them to do and I’ve just congratulated them in there for being a massive part of our team today.
“I think our performance in the first two periods today shows our potential as a team, what we can do.
“We came into the dressing room disappointed that it was 2-2 at the end of the second and to be fair their coach was probably quite happy that it was 2-2 because he thought they got out of jail a little bit.
“We’ll be missing Dennis Boström for the first game of next year as he doesn’t return from Sweden until after the game. It’s a big miss for the team but hopefully James Moss will be back and firing on all cylinders because he’s been an outstanding player for us this season.
“I’m confident we can make the top four. I’ve just said to the lads we’re more than matching the top teams – we’ve come away from here on the end of a scoreline that really flatters the Hawks. But if you make mistakes against them then they’ll punish you – they’re a great side.”
Whitley came within 40 seconds of defeating the Hawks at Hillheads, with a late Richard Bentham goal snatching a 4-4 draw for the Lancashire outfit.
Assistant Coach Dave Holland said: “It was an excellent performance and a pleasing result – for us to sit were we are in table at Christmas time is superb. We dug in, played well and matched them all over the ice.
“Dean (Holland) played well tonight as did Callum Queenan and Lobby (David Longstaff). Dean (above) isn’t fully fit at the moment, but he’s giving his all for the team while Lobby is playing despite taking a puck to the face in a recent game.
“Harry Harley and Dan Pye also did well on defense while netminder Richie Lawson pulled a lot of good saves out.
“We have picked up no injuries in the game and we face Blackburn again in the New Year at their place in what should be another good game of hockey.”
(Image permission: IceHockeyMedia)