Weekend Preview: Pirates & Dragons Next Up For Stars
ULTIMATE WINDOWS-sponsored Billingham Stars have a busy weekend ahead in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 as they host Hull Pirates at the Forum tomorrow afternoon, followed by a trip to North Wales to face The Dragons on Sunday evening.
Former English Premier League outfit Hull visit the Forum for the first time this season, in what is the first competitive meeting on Teesside between Billingham and Hull’s senior sides for many a year. Coached by former Sheffield Steeler Jason Hewitt, the Pirates chose not to bring in any imports this season and instead focused on attracting top-class British talent. Their main offensive threat comes in the form of Great Britain international Matty Davies who has just picked up the October Player of the Month award. Although their form has been patchy in places, Hull have shown that they are more than capable of challenging for honours and will feel confident of taking the points tomorrow after a comprehensive 11-1 demolition of the Stars on Humberside last month.
The Dragons are going through turbulent times. Bottom of the table with just one win in 12 and a goal difference of -89, the Deeside-based outfit parted company with Player/Coach Scott McKenzie at the end of October and have lost several players since, including netminder Jonah Armstrong and ex-Widnes Wild man Shaun Dippnall on Wednesday. In temporary charge of coaching is French import Mickaël Brodin, his immediate task is to stabilise the squad and attempt to inject new life into their season. The main areas of concern would appear to be their leaky defence and indiscipline – at 414 penalty minutes accrued they are well over 100 minutes ahead of the next ‘bad boys’ of the League Solihull Barons.
Billingham came back down to Earth with a bump last Sunday as Solway patiently wore them down to overtake them in the final period and stole both points with a 5-3 win at the Forum. Two very different challenges await this weekend, and the Stars will have different benches for each as player availability and injury have a big say in the final squad. In what has become a theme for the first half of the season, Billingham will be short at the back with Richie Thornton, Andy Finn, Ross Hanlon, Dave Thomas and Tom Keeley all missing. Up front Michael Bowman faces a late fitness test and Callum Davies will miss Sunday’s trip to North Wales.
The Stars’ Director of Coaching Terry Ward knows his side are in for another tough weekend:
“We have another two very tough games this weekend, there is no let-up at all this season. Once again we will have to tackle each match with a shorter bench than we’d like, but we will go with what we’ve got. The result against Hull last month is one we’d like to avenge – they will need to adapt their game for our smaller ice pad and that will help us to contain their danger men. The Dragons are wounded right now and that makes them unpredictable, we certainly won’t be taking anything for granted. If we apply ourselves in the right way I see no reason why we can’t get four points from the weekend.”
Billingham have a double game weekend in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 as they host Hull Pirates tomorrow afternoon (face off 5.30pm) before travelling to North Wales to take on The Dragons on Sunday (face off 5.45pm). Tickets for tomorrow afternoon’s game can be bought from the box office from 4.30pm priced at £10 adults, £6 concessions, £30 family [2+2].
Whitley Warriors v Nottingham Lions, Saturday 5pm
Billingham Stars v Hull Pirates, Saturday 5.30pm
Solway Sharks v Sheffield Steeldogs, Saturday 7pm
The Dragons v Billingham Stars, Sunday 5.45pm
Blackburn Hawks v Sheffield Steeldogs, Sunday 5.45pm
Nottingham Lions v Solway Sharks, Sunday 6pm
Solihull Barons v Whitley Warriors, Sunday 6pm
All images courtesy of David Morrison.