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Stars fall to Sharks' overtime attack.

Byline: CAROL WHITE

BILLINGHAM Stars threw away a three-goal lead as they lost their opening Northern Cup match in overtime against Solway Sharks on Sunday evening at the Forum.

The Ultimate Windows-sponsored Stars started immediately on the offensive and got the early breakthrough when Jack Emerson broke clear and went top shelf from a tight angle on the backhand in the third minute.

The first penalty of the game saw Joe Coulter sent to the Shark's box on a high sticks minor in the sixth minute, Billingham punishing the transgression in seconds, as from the face off Daniel Palmebjork grabbed his first competitive goal for the Stars with another backhand shot from close range.

The Teessiders were next to hit penalty trouble and the Scots were quick to capitalise in the eighth minute, Stars netminder Mark Watson making two saves before the rebound was eventually put away by Marc Fowley from close in.

Richard Bentham's trip on James Moss saw the former Blackburn man take a seat in the 11th minute - the penalty had almost expired when a blue line slap from Richie Thornton ricocheted off the post and fell to Michael Bowman who made no mistake on the backhand.

Billingham were in full control and made it 4-1 in the 15th minute when Moss found Dennis Bostrom on the opposite wing and the Swede one-timed past Sharks goaltender Kieran Hobbins to leave Solway seemingly all at sea after the first period.

The Sharks clawed one back with just over a minute played of the second session when a shot from Bentham took a deflection and tricked through Watson's pads.

Both sides were very effective on the power play, and so it proved once more as Billingham extended their lead in the 31st minute with Kim Miettinen sitting out a slashing minor, Thornton skating through and hooked at the last second by Stuart Kerr, but Chris Sykes was there to pounce on the rebound and score on a delayed penalty call, the score a comfortable 5-2 going into the break.

The Sharks started their comeback in the 46th minute with a controversial goal from Moore, the visitors celebrating as Billingham protested that the puck had been kicked in. In the 52nd minute Connor Henderson found Coulter with an inch-perfect pass, the finish into the top corner just as perfect.

Billingham looked out of sorts and a world away from the team that dominated the first 40 minutes - the equaliser seemed inevitable, and it duly came in the 57th minute when multiple defensive errors and failures to clear the zone led to Bentham grabbing the goal that sent the game into sudden-death overtime.

Ninety seconds into the five-minute overtime period, Thornton was called for tripping as he desperately tried to stop a Sharks breakaway, Solway allowed the extra man to give them a four-on-three powerplay.

Billingham called a timeout to discuss how to protect their net but it was to no avail - with three minutes gone the visitors stole the puck in the neutral zone and surged forward through Duncan Speirs, the youngster making no mistake to hand what had seemed an unlikely victory to the Scots.

Billingham's Director of Coaching Terry Ward could not hide his anger at the way his side gave up such a commanding position.

"We knew Solway were never going to give up, but we've got to turn up for three periods, not just two," he said.

"We weren't chasing down pucks, we weren't doing anything that we were doing in the first two periods.

"We were in control - we worked really hard in the first and shut them down in the second, then the third - everybody could see for themselves, it was terrible."

Man of the match for the Stars was Mark Watson.

The Stars travel to Whitley Warriors for the first North-east derby of the season on Sunday in a game that counts for both the League and the Cup. Face off at Hillheads is 5pm. Stars Stats: Daniel Palmebjork 1+1; Chris Sykes 1+0; Michael Bowman 1+0; Jack Emerson 1+0; Dennis Bostrom 1+0; James Moss 0+1; Richie Thornton 0+1; Cal Davies 0+1; Tom Keeley 0+1 SOG: Mark Watson 50 (14 / 13 / 20 / 3) Sharks Stats: Richard Bentham 2+0; Duncan Speirs 1+2; Joe Coulter 1+0; Marc Fowley 1+0; Steven Moore 1+0; Connor Henderson 0+1; James Hutchinson 0+1; Ross Murray 0+1 SOG: Kieran Hobbins 29 (11 / 7 / 9 / 2) Weekend Results NIHL(N)1 : Whitley Warriors 3 Telford Tigers NIHL 3, Solihull Barons 3 The Dragons 6 NIHL North Cup: Solway Sharks 3 Blackburn Hawks 5, Billingham Stars 5 Solway Sharks 6 (after overtime)

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Dennis Bostrom scores Billingham's Stars fourth goal against Solway Sharks CRAIG MORGAN
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Sep 27, 2016
Words:799
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