Stars Ready To Sting Sutton
ULTIMATE WINDOWS-sponsored Billingham Stars return to home ice in National Ice Hockey League Moralee Division 1 on Sunday evening as they welcome newly-promoted Sutton Sting to the Forum for their first visit since the 2016/2017 season.
Sutton Sting return to Division 1 after an absence of just one season after electing to step down to Division 2 last year. A season at the lower level afforded the Sting the chance to rebuild their side into one capable of competing in the increasingly competitive top flight, and the early signs are encouraging. Sutton have cleverly retained a core group of experienced players, with the likes of James Goodman and Ryan Johnson familiar names to most Stars fans, and brought in a lot of talented young players to give them one of the youngest rosters in the league. Import defencemen Jonas Fredriksson and Péter Tóth give some spine to the blue line, whilst much of the Sting’s success will depend on the form of Stanislav Lascek, the Slovakian having troubled netminders at English Premier League level with Milton Keynes Lightning, Sheffield Steeldogs and Hull Pirates before dropping down to rack up 53 points in 14 games with Sutton last year. The season has started perhaps better than many had predicted, as the Sting bounced back from heavy back-to-back defeats in their opening weekend against Hull to record their first victory at home to Solihull Barons last Saturday. They followed that up with a narrow 3-2 loss on the road at Blackburn, proving that they are going to be much tougher to get past than pre-season pundits predicted.
Billingham’s excellent start to their campaign continued last weekend with a maximum haul of four points from two long road games at Solway Sharks in the Cup and Nottingham Lions in the League. Whilst few would have bet against the Lions victory – Nottingham are rooted to the bottom of the early-season table – the win in Dumfries was one for the fans to savour. The Stars have not won at Solway in quite some time, and to come back from two goals down to snatch the win in sudden-death overtime was particularly encouraging. There is a new-found resilience within the Billingham camp this year, and when previous sides would have crumbled this team is pulling together to grind out results. Head Coach Tom Brown was not particularly pleased with either performance in terms of sticking to their systems, but the spirit in the squad and the will to win adds an extra dimension to the team. Returning to the Forum on Sunday to attempt to continue their four-game winning streak, the Stars may well have to do without Jack Davies who faces a late fitness test, otherwise a full bench should be available.
Billingham General Manager Allen Flavell highlighted the new confidence in the team as a contributing factor to their recent good form:
“I’m confident of the win on Sunday, as are the boys. There is a whole different atmosphere in the dressing room this season, everyone wants to pull on the shirt and work hard for each other. Tom [Brown] has had another week with the guys, teaching them his systems of playing, and everyone is buying into it. You have been able to see the difference a bit of confidence has made in these opening weekends – in previous years going two behind at Solway would have been game over, but not this side. I’m excited by what we might be able to achieve.”
The Stars welcome Sutton Sting to the Forum on Sunday evening for a National Ice Hockey League Moralee Division 1 encounter, face off 6.30pm. Tickets can be bought from the box office from 5.30pm priced at £10.50 adults, £6.50 concessions, £32 family [2+2].
Solihull Barons v Whitley Warriors, Saturday 5.15pm
Solway Sharks v Nottingham Lions, Saturday 7pm
Whitley Warriors v Blackburn Hawks, Sunday 5pm
Billingham Stars v Sutton Sting, Sunday 6.30pm
Nottingham Lions v Solihull Barons, Sunday 7.30pm
Blackburn Hawks v Telford Tigers, Saturday 6pm
Telford Tigers v Solway Sharks, Sunday 6pm
All images: Kevin Sloan @ KSS Images