Derby Day... Part Two
ULTIMATE WINDOWS-sponsored Billingham Stars face the second leg of a festive North East double header with a trip to Tyneside neighbours Whitley Warriors in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 on Sunday evening.
After a hard-fought battle at the Forum last Sunday that could have gone either way, it was the Warriors who left Teesside with both points with netminder Richie Lawson to thank after a third period onslaught from the Stars failed to bear fruit. Whitley had the luxury of a much larger bench last weekend and should be stronger still on Sunday as captain Dean Holland will be eligible for selection following a six-game suspension. Historically seen as a tough place to visit, the Warriors’ Hillheads home has not been its usual fortress this season with just four wins from 11 games played. However Billingham’s form there in recent times has left a lot to be desired and Whitley will feel that the momentum is with them. As demonstrated once again last Sunday, much will depend upon the performance of Ben Campbell – his hat trick at the weekend took his tally to 33 goals for the season and the former Elite League forward is clearly the Tynesiders’ main route to the net. Warriors will need their full squad this weekend as they face a difficult trip to League leaders Sheffield Steeldogs tomorrow afternoon, a team they have already fallen twice to this campaign.
Last Sunday’s game, whilst not delivering any points, at least gave the Stars a shot in the arm as their small squad put up a hard-working performance against their nearest rivals. But for a superb display between the pipes from Lawson, a win was within reach and Billingham had plenty of positives to take from the game. Unfortunately there is no end in sight for the Stars in terms of player unavailability and another short bench will make the short journey up the A19 – no fewer than nine senior players are out of Sunday's squad, with Richie Thornton, Andy Finn and Tom Keeley all missing from the side that took on Whitley last Sunday. Juniors Dylan Hehir and Josh Reynolds are drafted into the team, whilst the coaches are hopeful that netminder James Flavell will be able to start after successfully resuming training this week.
The Stars’ General Manager Allen Flavell has faith in his side to pick up where they left off last weekend:
“Yes we are short but we were short last weekend and the lads put up a great performance. I’m sure the Warriors will agree that they were under the cosh for much of the third last Sunday, we will look to take that display and hopefully find a way to hit the back of the net this weekend. If we get a game like last Sunday then both sets of fans should go home happy – a derby tends to throw up surprises and we are confident we can surprise our friends up the road.”
Billingham travel to Hillheads for the second North East derby in a week as they face Whitley Warriors in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 on Sunday afternoon, face off 5pm.
Solihull Barons v Telford Tigers, Saturday 5.15pm
Blackburn Hawks v Hull Pirates, Saturday 6pm
Sheffield Steeldogs v Whitley Warriors, Saturday 7.30pm
Whitley Warriors v Billingham Stars, Sunday 5pm
Hull Pirates v Sheffield Steeldogs, Sunday 5.30pm
Nottingham Lions v Solway Sharks, Sunday 5.30pm
Sutton Sting v Blackburn Hawks, Sunday 5.30pm
Telford Tigers v Solihull Barons, Sunday 6pm
Images courtesy of Linda Crabtree