Match Preview: Stars v Tigers
ULTIMATE WINDOWS-sponsored Billingham Stars look to post only their second win of the season in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 at the Forum tomorrow afternoon as they take on Telford Tigers.
Telford have made a solid start to life in the revamped National League. The reigning English Premier League champions are unbeaten thus far and sit comfortably on the shoulder of early leaders Blackburn Hawks in second place. The Tigers are operating with a relatively short but offensively very strong bench – Canadian import Jason Silverthorn is the man to watch, alongside Rick Plant and Joe Miller. The Shropshire outfit have had a turbulent week however, an unsavoury incident against Swindon last Sunday that left Wildcats’ Toms Rutkis requiring surgery will likely lead to a long suspension for Great Britain international Jonathan Weaver, who will not ice tomorrow afternoon. Tigers have moved swiftly to add to their squad and announced the return of Warren Tait yesterday, the former Great Britain centre rejoining from Nottingham Lions.
Billingham need to get their campaign back on track and quickly, the two defeats last weekend leaving them looking at a six-game losing streak and languishing seventh in the League table with just the one victory over The Dragons in their season opener to show for their efforts. Frustrated by individual errors that have ultimately cost matches, the coaching team are focusing on cementing their systems ahead of tomorrow’s tie against a side that put 14 goals past them in preseason. Those two games are not being seen as a marker for tomorrow however, the Stars confident that they can match Telford in a competitive environment. The Teessiders have had disciplinary issues of their own this week as Ben Davison was handed a two-game suspension for a check to the head in last Sunday’s National Cup loss at home to Blackburn, meaning he will miss tomorrow’s game and next Saturday’s trip to Sheffield Steeldogs. Billingham are also without Luke Brown and Darren Stattersfield (injured), and James Hellens (suspended). James Flavell has resumed training but is not yet ready to return to the squad, but Callum Davies will return after sitting out last weekend with a sore foot.
The Stars’ Director of Coaching Terry Ward is looking for improvements across the board tomorrow afternoon:
“We have spoken about last weekend in training this week and we all know what needs to be done. We simply cannot start games the way we started against Sheffield and Blackburn last weekend – we were far too slow out of the blocks, and by the time we had our heads in the game we were chasing them both. In seasons gone by we might have got away with that kind of start but not anymore – our opponents are all far too good to just give them a two or three goal head start before we know where we are. We have taken the positives from how we did play once we’d woken up against the Hawks – that is how we must start against Telford. They are an excellent side going forward, we must be alive to the potential danger from the first drop of the puck whilst making sure we are creating quality chances at the other end ourselves.”
The Stars host Telford Tigers tomorrow afternoon in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 at the Forum, face off 5.30pm. Tickets can be bought from the box office from 4.30pm priced at £10 adults, £6 concessions, £30 family [2+2].
Billingham Stars v Telford Tigers, Saturday 5.30pm
Solway Sharks v Nottingham Lions, Saturday 7pm
Whitley Warriors v The Dragons, Sunday 5pm
Hull Pirates v Solway Sharks, Sunday 5.30pm
Telford Tigers v Solihull Barons, Sunday 6pm
Nottingham Lions v Blackburn Hawks, Sunday 7.30pm
All images: Ross Beall