ICE HOCKEY: SOLIHULL Barons produced their best performance of the season to overcome second-placed Billingham Stars 7-5 in what was a thrilling 12-goal encounter in Solihull on Sunday evening.
The first period showed that despite the long trip down from Teeside, the Stars were quick to shake off their bus legs and pose an immediate threat to the Barons.
With the early minutes offering chances to both sides, it was the visitors who struck first with eight minutes on the clock with Jack Watkins making the breakthrough.
The stars extended their lead further mid-way through the first quarter with Dennis Bostrum inflicting the damage before the Barons hit back.
The hosts had continued to push and their efforts were rewarded in the 14th minute when Rich Slater rounded the net to tuck the puck into the Billingham goal and keep the Barons in contention heading into the second quarter.
The second period started brightly for the Barons and it was not long before Niklas Ottosson scored an equaliser from just outside the crease just 22 seconds into the period.
Confidence was lifted in the Barons camp and just two minutes later the hosts were ahead for the first time in the match thanks to some sharp shooting by Matt Maurice.
There were no further chances for both sides through the middle period with the Barons generally seeing more of the puck but neither side managed any sustained period of high quality pressure on the opposition.
There was however time for one last scored in the period with a minute to go and it was Maurice who scored again after making the most of a neat pass by Andy Whitehouse to execute a one-timer into the Stars net.
However the two-goal advantage was short-lived as Callum Davies pulled one goal back right on the buzzer to set up a tense final period.
Three minutes into the final quarter the visitors pulled level again with Michael Elder dancing through the Barons’ zone for Stars’ fourth goal of the game.
It fell to Tom Soar to restore the home side’s lead two minutes later when a careless giveaway gave Soar space and time to pick his spot.
Rich Slater got his second of the night with ten minutes remaining and he scored a hat-trick soon after as the Stars gave in to Solihull pressure.
The two-goal buffer would again prove fleeting, Callum Davies skating round a sprawled Sam Hewitt in the Barons net to peg the advantage back to a single goal.
Despite a missed Barons penalty shot, the home side would pick up the final goal of the night courtesy of Joe Henry to see the game end 7-5 in favour of the Barons.
The Barons’ next challenge is the final meeting of the regular season between Solihull and the Flintshire based Dragons at their Welsh rink this Sunday.