Weekend Preview: Stars Go For Three In A Row
ULTIMATE WINDOWS-sponsored Billingham Stars keep logging the minutes with two more tough games in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 over the weekend, League leaders Telford Tigers visiting the Forum tomorrow afternoon before the Stars travel down to Nottingham on Sunday for their third game against the Lions in two weeks.
Telford have been threatening to take top spot for some time now, and they eventually leapfrogged Sheffield Steeldogs last Sunday when the South Yorkshire outfit stumbled to a 4-1 defeat at Whitley Warriors whilst the Tigers just pipped fellow title challengers Hull Pirates by the odd goal in seven on Humberside. The form team coming into the run-in, Telford have won their last six games on the spin however their fate and that of second-placed Steeldogs would appear to be in the hands of the real danger side in the Pirates who both teams must face three times as all three pursue the League trophy. Tigers will come to Teesside knowing they were fortunate to come away with the points on their last visit, the now departed Joe Miller getting the game winner in the final ten minutes as the former English Premier League outfit just snatched a 3-4 win back in September.
Billingham will travel to the slightly less glamourous surroundings of the National Ice Centre in Nottingham on Sunday to take on the Lions for the final time this season. The two sides played out a home-and-away mini series last weekend, and although the Stars took all four points they were pushed all the way by a hard-working Lions team, Sunday’s game at the Forum especially tight as Nottingham forced the match into overtime. Eventually it took a piece of individual brilliance from Latvian forward Deniss Baškatovs to finish the Lions off, so Billingham will be under no illusions as to what to expect.
The tough schedule that has seen the Stars play ten games since Christmas does not let up this weekend, but so far the casualty list is not as extensive as it was in the earlier part of the season. The mood in the Billingham camp is buoyant, just three defeats in those ten games has seen the Stars narrow the gap considerably between themselves and a bunch of sides in mid-table. With a good-sized bench available this weekend, Billingham should be able to make life difficult for the table-toppers tomorrow afternoon before going for their fourth win over Nottingham on Sunday. The Stars do have some players unavailable – netminder James Flavell misses both games, as do Scott Ward and Darren Stattersfield. Andy Finn will not travel on Sunday, and as the Under 20s have a game a decision will be taken over where James Hellens, Ethan Hehir and Alex Preston will play.
Billingham’s Director of Coaching Terry Ward is confident that his side can extend their recent good form:
“We’ll be looking for another four points this weekend, no question about it. Telford will be a tough ask but they’re coming to our barn and we are on form ourselves, we believe we have enough to take them on. They have some quality players, Jason Silverthorn in particular is a phenomenal goalscorer, but they should be worried about coming here. Sunday’s game we are expecting to be pushed hard by Nottingham again – after last weekend we know what to expect and we know we cannot give anything less than 100%.”
The Stars welcome table toppers Telford Tigers to the Forum in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 tomorrow afternoon (face off 5.30pm) before travelling back to Nottingham for their final match-up of the season with the Lions on Sunday evening (face off 6pm).Tickets for today’s game can be bought from the box office from 4.30pm priced at £10 adults, £6 concessions, £30 family [2+2].
Solihull Barons v Whitley Warriors, Saturday 5pm
Billingham Stars v Telford Tigers, Saturday 5.30pm
Blackburn Hawks v Hull Pirates, Saturday 5.45pm
Sheffield Steeldogs v Nottingham Lions, Saturday 7.30pm
Whitley Warriors v Solway Sharks, Sunday 5pm
The Dragons v Hull Pirates, Sunday 5.45pm
Blackburn Hawks v Telford Tigers, Sunday 5.45pm
Solihull Barons v Sheffield Steeldogs, Sunday 6pm
Nottingham Lions v Billingham Stars, Sunday 6pm
All images courtesy of Tony Burgum Photography