Reasons To Be Cheerful...
ULTIMATE WINDOWS-sponsored Billingham Stars will take on two-thirds of the ‘Big Three’ in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 this weekend still missing key players, but in optimistic mood following a morale-boosting performance last Sunday at the Forum.
Tomorrow’s visitors to Teesside are Hull Pirates, a side that has sailed into troubled waters in recent weeks. After Tomas Fucik picked up a lengthy suspension for throwing a net peg in an ill-tempered encounter with Sheffield Steeldogs, the netminder then decided to leave the club for pastures new, leaving the Pirates short of a starting goaltender. Fucik’s temporary replacement, Ashley Smith, has been named as his permanent successor but at just 19 years of age Smith still has a lot to learn, as proved during his side’s last visit to the Forum last month when footage clearly showed Smith deliberately removing his net to prevent an attack from Kevin Boyd. An unexpected defeat at Solway Sharks last weekend shows that Hull are indeed vulnerable right now, and the Stars will look to take advantage if they can.
Billingham take on Telford Tigers for the second Sunday in succession on Sunday evening, this time in Shropshire. Last Sunday’s encounter proved to be much closer than many anticipated, a Stars bench boosted by the return of Cal and Jack Davies pushing the Tigers all the way before eventually being edged out 3-5 in a chippy game. In the end Telford’s starting line proved too much for Billingham to handle, Doug Clarkson always a threat and Scott McKenzie involved in all but one of his side’s five goals. A game that featured quite a few side stories, Sunday's clash may well see some players have scores to settle, but the Stars will at least have the confidence of knowing they are much closer to their illustrious opponents than was previously the case.
Two more tough games for Billingham where they are not expected to pick up points, however recent performances against these two sides in particular suggest the Stars are capable of an upset. The Teessiders are finally starting to see the light at the end of their injury tunnel, a larger bench this weekend will be pivotal if Billingham are to produce the goods against two teams expected to be there or thereabouts come the end of the season. They are not quite at full strength yet however, Jack Emerson will be missing this weekend having picked up a lower body injury, whilst Edgar Protčenko is on international duty with Lithuania.
The Stars’ General Manager Allen Flavell can see his side getting closer to a victory against one of the big fish in the Moralee Conference pond:
“We’re going into this weekend much more positive. We know we can live with these guys now, and I think we’re closer than ever to turning one of these teams over. Will it happen this weekend? It’s not impossible, if Solway can do it then we certainly can. Last weekend showed what we can do when we have the players – it was so important to get Cal Davies back in the squad, and Jack Davies just gives us that bit of bite. I’m looking forward to us giving both sides a run for their money!”
Billingham are in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 action this weekend starting with the visit of Hull Pirates to the Forum tomorrow night, face off 6pm. On Sunday the Stars are on the road at Telford Tigers, face off 6pm. Tickets for today’s clash can be bought from the box office from 5pm priced at £10.50 adults, £6.50 concessions, £32 family [2+2].
Solihull Barons v Sheffield Steeldogs, Saturday 5.15pm
Billingham Stars v Hull Pirates, Saturday 6pm
Solway Sharks v Blackburn Hawks, Saturday 7pm
Sutton Sting v Telford Tigers, Saturday 7.30pm
Whitley Warriors v Nottingham Lions, Sunday 5pm
Blackburn Hawks v Sutton Sting, Sunday 5.30pm
Telford Tigers v Billingham Stars, Sunday 6pm
Sheffield Steeldogs v Solway Sharks, Sunday 5.30pm
Hull Pirates v Murrayfield Racers, Sunday 5.30pm
Images courtesy of Tony Burgum Photography.