Weekend Preview: Three On The Bounce For Stars?
ULTIMATE WINDOWS-sponsored Billingham Stars will look to increase the gap between themselves and the foot of the table in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 this Sunday as they welcome basement side The Dragons to the Forum for their second visit of the campaign.
The Dragons have had a turbulent season thus far, off-ice issues compounding their problems on the ice where they have won just twice and shipped 221 goals. Things started badly for the North Wales outfit as they lost Player/Coach and last season’s top scorer Scott McKenzie to Telford Tigers, and continued to get worse with various other player departures and the loss of General Manager Chris Armstrong last month. The start of 2018 has brought better news with the return of experienced former coach Gary Shaw to the bench, plus the addition of netminder Louis Edwards to the squad. If The Dragons are to turn around their season and haul themselves out of trouble they need to address their leaky defence and also their discipline – at 665 minutes the Deeside-based side have racked up well over two hundred penalty minutes more than their closest rivals in the ‘bad boys’ table.
Billingham have started the second half of their season in the right way with two home wins on the bounce. Whilst eighth place in the League is still not what the management team would have considered acceptable at the start of the campaign, it is nevertheless a play-off spot. The immediate priority for the Stars is to distance themselves from the relegation battle at the bottom before targeting an improved League position to give themselves a better shot at progressing in the playoffs in March. A game against The Dragons is an ideal opportunity to grab both points and goals, the Teessiders having won both previous games against their Welsh opponents comfortably this season. The coaches will almost certainly have a selection headache on Sunday evening as Billingham go into the game with a full squad for the first time in many months with the return to training this week of Mark Watson, Tom Keeley, Jack Davies and Ross Hanlon. With only long-term injury victim Dave Thomas missing, the coaches will have some tricky decisions to make as to who makes the bench.
The Stars’ Director of Coaching Terry Ward is looking forward to continuing his side’s recent good home form:
“The lads are really looking forward to this game – we’ve been dominant on our own ice for the past few weeks and we want to keep that momentum going. The Dragons haven’t had the best of seasons so far but we can’t allow ourselves to get complacent or to feel sorry for them – we need to concentrate on ourselves and put in the best performance we can. A display like last Saturday against the Lions would be ideal – we didn’t play too badly at Telford either, in fact I’d say we shocked them in the first period and they were lucky to go in ahead at the break, but we were let down by our second period performance and we must learn from that.”
Billingham entertain basement side The Dragons in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 on Sunday evening, face off 6.30pm. Tickets can be bought from the box office from 5.30pm priced at £10 adults, £6 concessions, £30 family [2+2].
Solihull Barons v Telford Tigers, Saturday 5pm
Hull Pirates v Whitley Warriors, Saturday 6pm
Solway Sharks v Blackburn Hawks, Saturday 7pm
Whitley Warriors v Hull Pirates, Sunday 5pm
Blackburn Hawks v Nottingham Lions, Sunday 5.45pm
Billingham Stars v The Dragons, Sunday 6.30pm
All images courtesy of Linda Crabtree