Stars Into The Lions' Den
ULTIMATE WINDOWS-sponsored Billingham Stars have the relative luxury of a one-game weekend in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1, their recent heavy schedule taking a short breather as they travel to basement side Nottingham Lions tomorrow evening looking to kick-start their League campaign.
Billingham’s losing streak currently stands at 11 games in League and Cup competitions, a run not helped by injuries, suspensions and an unkind fixture list that has seen the Stars come up against the top three sides in seven of those 11 games. After a bright enough start to the season that saw the Teessiders top of their North Cup group for a while, this dramatic slump in form needs to be halted before it undermines their entire season.
Billingham will get their chance to restore some confidence tomorrow evening when they travel to Nottingham to take on the winless and pointless Lions. Propping up the League having conceded 118 goals in just 13 games, Nottingham look on paper to be the ideal side for a side short on conviction to come up against. The Lions have battled hard, but thus far the closest they have come to registering a point was at home to Blackburn Hawks a few weeks ago when a goal less than two minutes from time from Peta Valusiak snatched the game from the grasp of the home side, who had been leading until the midpoint of the final period. Nottingham have had to deal with their own fair share of unavailability and suspension issues, and have not helped their own cause with the highest penalty minute count in the League at 315. On the plus side, the Lions are bringing a number of young players through their ranks with the likes of Ruskin Hughes and Cameron Pywell catching the eye as ones to watch for the future.
Facing a team that has not won a single game may add a little pressure to the Stars, who despite being just one place above Nottingham are expected to grab both points. They go into the game with few injury concerns, with just Jack Emerson and Michael Elder facing late fitness tests, however they will be missing netminder James Flavell who has controversially been given a four-match ban following an incident in last Saturday’s game against Hull Pirates at the Forum when he tangled with Hull forward Bobby Chamberlain. Back-up netminder Mark Watson will deputise until Flavell is eligible for a return against Telford next month.
Billingham’s Director of Coaching Terry Ward sees tomorrow’s game as a chance for the Stars to get back on track:
“There are definitely no easy games in this League but we have to see Sunday’s game as an opportunity to get back on the bike so to speak. We’ve had a run of very tough games with short benches and some plain bad luck, it’s time to put those behind us and make a fresh start. Losing Flav is a blow but Mark is a great netminder in his own right and has performed every time we have asked him to, so our goal is in capable hands.”
The Stars travel to Nottingham tomorrow evening for a National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 game against the Lions, rearranged face off time is 5.45pm.
Hull Pirates v Nottingham Lions, Saturday 6pm
Sheffield Steeldogs v Blackburn Hawks, Saturday 7.30pm
Sheffield Steeldogs v Sutton Sting, Sunday 5.30pm
Blackburn Hawks v Solihull Barons, Sunday 5.30pm
Nottingham Lions v Billingham Stars, Sunday 5.45pm
Solway Sharks v Telford Tigers, Saturday 7pm
Telford Tigers v Hull Pirates, Sunday 6pm
Murrayfield Racers v Solway Sharks, Sunday 6pm
Images courtesy of Linda Crabtree