Time For A Shock?
ULTIMATE WINDOWS-sponsored Billingham Stars come up against two of the ‘big three’ again this weekend as they go in search of National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 points at Telford Tigers before they try to prolong their North Cup campaign with the visit of Sheffield Steeldogs to the Forum.
Telford currently sit in a comparatively lowly fifth position in the League, however they have played considerably less games than Solihull Barons just a point above them in fourth and also Solway Sharks who have shocked many this season and currently occupy second place. Averaging nearly nine goals per game, the Tigers have plenty of firepower but only Andrew McKinney makes the top ten points scorers’ table which illustrates their strength in depth up front. At the back Telford have been reliant upon Thomas Hovell between the pipes following an injury to Denis Bell, and this week they moved to strengthen their netminding position with the two-way signing of former fan favourite Sam Gospel from Nottingham Panthers. Telford has not proved to be a happy hunting ground for the Stars since the introduction of the former English Premier League sides, however they have pushed the Tigers close at the Forum and must look to contain the likes of Doug Clarkson and Jason Silverthorn if they are to come away with anything tomorrow.
Sunday sees Billingham in the ‘last chance saloon’ of North Cup qualification as they welcome the only team that can deny them a place in the final four to the Forum. Sheffield currently occupy the fourth and last qualification berth, three points ahead of the Stars. With only four points left available to the Teessiders, they must win Sunday's game plus their remaining fixture at Murrayfield, and hope that the Steeldogs lose their remaining three games. A tall order perhaps, but momentum is equally important at this stage of the season so both sides will be looking for the win. Sheffield’s campaign suffered a minor hiccup last weekend with double defeats at the hands of Telford and Hull Pirates to leave the door slightly ajar for Billingham.
The Stars have been knocking on the door for most of the season to get a result against one of the League’s top sides, and will roll again this weekend hoping to surprise one or both of their opponents. There are issues at the back for Billingham to contend with, Tom Keeley picking up a lower body injury against Blackburn last weekend and Darren Stattersfield unavailable. James Flavell’s suspension has come to an end meaning he is available for selection.
The Stars’ General Manager Allen Flavell believes it is only a matter of time before his side turn over one of the top teams:
“We haven’t quite managed it yet, but a result against one of these big clubs is surely coming. We are not as far away as maybe we were last season, we just need a little bit of the luck that seems to be evading us! A few bounces to go our way might be enough to see us over the line. We’re a bit short at the back this weekend but we have faith in the players that will ice to get the job done.”
Billingham travel to Telford tomorrow night to face the Tigers in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1, face off 7pm. They return to the Forum on Sunday evening for a North Cup clash against Sheffield Steeldogs, face off 6.30pm. Tickets for Sunday's game can be bought from the box office from 5.30pm priced at £10.50 adults, £6.50 concessions, £32 family [2+2].
Telford Tigers v Billingham Stars, Saturday 7pm
Whitley Warriors v Nottingham Lions, Sunday 5pm
Blackburn Hawks v Solway Sharks, Sunday 5.30pm
Solihull Barons v Sutton Sting, Sunday 6pm
Murrayfield Racers v Hull Pirates, Saturday 6pm
Solway Sharks v Sheffield Steeldogs, Saturday 7pm
Hull Pirates v Telford Tigers, Sunday 5.30pm
Billingham Stars v Sheffield Steeldogs, Sunday 6.30pm
Images: Steve Pollitt / Linda Crabtree