Target Four Points For Stars
ULTIMATE WINDOWS-sponsored Billingham Stars will hope for better luck this weekend as they attempt to snap a five-game losing streak with games at Sutton Sting in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 and the visit of Blackburn Hawks to the Forum in the North Cup.
Stars go into the weekend buoyed by an unexpected performance against Hull Pirates on Sunday that almost saw them get the better of their illustrious opponents despite their short bench. Victory was denied in the final twenty, a combination of fatigue and plain bad luck preventing the Teessiders from recording what would have been a momentous win. In the end Billingham had to settle for gaining confidence only, but with zero points on the board last weekend it is imperative that the Stars start finding some winning form if they are to keep pace in both competitions.
First up for Billingham tomorrow evening will be Sutton Sting, a side more than capable of turning over supposedly superior teams as they have proved on numerous occasions already in the opening months of the season. Wins on the road at the Forum and more recently in Dumfries against Solway Sharks have gone a long way to confounding the pundits who had earmarked the Sting for a quick return to Division 2. It hasn’t all been plain sailing for Sutton however as they have failed to win two games in a row at any point thus far, an inconsistency that may cost them towards the business end of the season when play-off places are up for grabs.
From a late face-off in Sheffield, the Stars will return to the Forum to face Blackburn Hawks on Sunday for the first time this season. The Hawks have struggled to fire on all cylinders so far, with a return of just three wins in 12 games. Averaging just over two goals per game in the Cup competition, Blackburn’s issues would seem to be up front where they lost key players in Ric Bentham, Matt Viney and Jozef Ištocy during the summer. New import forwards Danielius Nomanovas and Petr Valusiak have yet to hit their strides, but the future looks brighter for the Hawks with the news last week that Kieran Brown has returned on a two-way deal with Sheffield Steelers to add to fellow young forward Adam Barnes who is on a two-way with Manchester Storm.
Another two-game weekend in a punishing schedule, Billingham need to add a few more bodies to their depleted bench. Edgar Protčenko is certain to come back after missing the Hull game, whilst Richie Thornton and Michael Bowman are hopeful of a quick return after picking up minor knocks last weekend. Jack Davies and Cain Taylor have resumed training but will face late fitness tests with their chances rated at no better than 50/50. Matthew Campbell is suspended for tomorrow's match at IceSheffield but is available on Sunday, whilst Cal Davies and Alex Preston are sidelined and will not make either game.
The Stars’ General Manager Allen Flavell thinks four points is more than possible despite the holes in the squad:
“If we play like we did for 40 minutes against Hull on Sunday then we’ll get all four points, no question. The work rate that the guys showed was awesome, it’s just unfortunate that they couldn’t keep it going for the final period. Tom [Brown] is gradually changing the way the guys think about the game, these things take time but we are getting there and the results will come, of that I’m sure.”
Billingham face Sutton Sting in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 tomorrow night, face off 7.30pm. on Sunday the visitors to the Forum are Blackburn Hawks for a North Cup clash, face off 6.30pm. Tickets for Sunday's encounter can be bought from the box office from 5.30pm priced at £10.50 adults, £6.50 concessions, £32 family [2+2].
Solway Sharks v Whitley Warriors, Saturday 7pm
Sutton Sting v Billingham Stars, Saturday 7.30pm
Whitley Warriors v Solihull Barons, Sunday 5pm
Sheffield Steeldogs v Nottingham Lions v, Sunday 5.30pm
Blackburn Hawks v Hull Pirates, Saturday 6pm
Telford Tigers v Sheffield Steeldogs, Saturday 7pm
Hull Pirates v Solway Sharks, Sunday 5.30pm
Murrayfield Racers v Telford Tigers, Sunday 6pm
Billingham Stars v Blackburn Hawks, Sunday 6.30pm
Images: Colin Edwards / Linda Crabtree