In their first season of Division One ice hockey Sutton Sting U16s have taken their time to get off the mark, but they pulled off their first win with a 2-0 away success at Billingham last Saturday.
It was never going to be easy on Teeside, but coach Jamie Templar took his young team up the A19 with the intention of getting at least a draw and a point, which they hoped would be enough to lift the Sting from the foot of the league table.
The Billingham Stars were sat in seventh place but stats suggested that they were up for the taking.
Sting needed to start brightly from the first drop of the puck, and that is exactly what they did.
Within seconds of the face-off the Sting forwards were pressing hard on the Stars’ defence and, with Templar rotating just two lines over the first few shifts, it was Sutton who started to command proceedings.
With eight minutes played, Sting’s power forward Jake Apsley broke free to chase a loose puck and headed straight for the Stars net.
Taking the puck quickly around the Billingham defence, he was through with just the goalie to beat and a quick-release shot down low between the goalie’s pads gave Sutton the lead they hoped for.
With Owen Lawton dropping into defence, the Sting’s youngest players were sitting out the action, but it wasn’t too long before Ross Jones was crashing through the Stars’ defence, only to be thwarted by a fine save.
At the other end Sutton goalie Nick Winters was doing his bit to keep the Sting noses in front and fine defensive play from Joe Deakin and Oliver Mitchell was making a big difference from the big defeat last time out.
With Lawton and Dom Clark bolstering defence alongside Cameron Glasby, the back line for Sutton was doing great work keeping the Stars out.
But it was up front where the game was hardest with Charlie Saunders and Brady Doxey using their silky soft hands to great effect by opening up the centre ice with pinpoint passes.
Apsley, Jones and wingman Cory Martin all had chances to score as did centreman Bailey Templar, but the Stars’ defensive line stood firm.
As the game entered the final phase in the third period, Winters was protecting a shut-out, the Sting U16’s first of the season, and it was looking like a 1-0 win until a trio of slick passes from Apsley, Saunders and Martin resulted in a tip-in goal to make it 2-0.
The last few minutes were played out, with Archie Gamwell almost netting the Sting’s third.
After the game a delighted Sting coach Jamie Templar said: “It was very important for us to get something from this game and I’m thrilled that we did just that.
“I’d have settled for a draw and one point, but two points lifts us from the bottom of the table and I think our season has just got going.”
Spirit of the Game winner for Sutton Sting was goalie Nick Winters.