Steel Needed Against Spartans
ULTIMATE WINDOWS sponsored Billingham Stars are looking to maintain their momentum as they welcome Sheffield Spartans to the Billingham Forum for a National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 clash on Sunday evening.The South Yorkshiremen are setting the early pace as the new season gets going, currently on top of the League after two impressive 7-1 victories over Sheffield Ice Hockey Academy sister side the Senators last weekend. The Spartans are certainly a much different proposition to the one that Billingham faced just three weeks ago in a preseason encounter, the Stars coming out 6-2 winners on that occasion. Since then Sheffield have recruited another import in Slovakian forward Maros Stefanco. 24-year-old Stefanco is a proven point scorer at National League level, having previously turned out for Milton Keynes Thunder, and will add another dimension to the Spartans attack. Sheffield will bring a larger squad than they did for the preseason challenge game, including first-choice netminder Brandon Stones, and have the ability to cause Billingham real problems across three strong lines. The Stars go into Sunday's game looking to pick up where they left off following a deserved 3-5 victory at Solway Sharks last Saturday night. Although they welcome back Tom Keeley, Billingham will again be short of a full squad with Richie Thornton, Scott Ward and captain Paul Windridge all unavailable. The Stars recovered from a miserable opening game 0-4 home loss against Blackburn to turn in a much-improved all-round team performance that saw off the Sharks, and the coaching team have demanded more of the same on Sunday. Billingham’s Director of Coaching Terry Ward called upon his side to put in the same effort as they did against Solway:
“We need a big game from the boys on Sunday. This Sheffield side that we are playing is not the same as the Spartans we played in preseason – they have strengthened up-front and they have a talented squad to choose from. They are tough to beat at the best of times but as their results last weekend show, they are now becoming the finished article. We will need to close them down offensively - putting 14 goals over two games past any opponent in this League should be making the rest of us sit up and take notice. I have impressed on the lads that they should not take anything for granted, the preseason result counts for nothing now and we simply cannot afford to underestimate them.
We will be short of a few players this weekend, but I believe we have enough depth in the squad to cover those gaps. We will go with what we have got, we showed our resilience against the Sharks and we will certainly need to be at our best to take anything out of this game. We need to keep that momentum going and give our home fans a better show than we did a few weeks ago. I am confident that a team performance like the one we put in in Dumfries will see us take both points.”The Stars take on Sheffield Spartans in a National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 fixture at the Forum on Sunday evening, face off 6.30pm. Tickets can be bought from the box office from 5.30pm on game night priced at £10 adults, £6 concessions, £30 family [2+2].