Weekend Cup Action for Stars
ULTIMATE WINDOWS-sponsored Billingham Stars are in National Ice Hockey League North Cup action this weekend with a trip to much-fancied Hull Pirates tomorrow afternoon followed by the visit of Solway Sharks to the Forum on Sunday evening.
Hull Pirates missed out on the big silverware last time out, a comparatively weak netminding duo seen as their major weakness as they saw Sheffield Steeldogs pip them to the League title. Making that position their top priority over the summer, the Pirates have brought in Czech goaltender Tomas Fucik from Polish outfit JKH GKS Jastrzebie, where he posted a plus 93% save average last season. Going with an import netminder means Hull have no practical reason to sign another imported player (the rules state you can only ice one import at any time), so they have strengthened elsewhere with the capture of Harry Harley from Whitley Warriors. The Pirates have started the season well, the offensive threat of last season remains productive with the likes of Matty Davies, Lee Bonner and Bobby Chamberlain all finding the net regularly already.
Solway visit Teesside on Sunday evening looking to avenge their overtime defeat on home ice against the Stars two weeks ago. Since then they have posted two convincing wins in the League away at Whitley and in Dumfries against basement dwellers Nottingham Lions, but they continue to struggle in the Cup coming away from Telford Tigers on the wrong end of a 6-1 scoreline last Sunday. Cale Tanaka is the player catching the eye, the former Elite League forward showing his class in every game and Billingham will have to keep a close eye on him if they want to make it a Cup double over their Scottish rivals.
The Stars saw their good start derailed last Sunday when Sutton pulled off a minor shock and came away with both League points with a 3-6 win at the Forum. Billingham were not at the races all night and performed poorly in all three periods to leave the new coaching team scratching their heads. It has been back to the drawing board this week in training, as Head Coach Tom Brown continues to work on what he sees as the focus areas of fitness and systems. Hull are undoubtedly a major test for the side tomorrow but Brown is not fazed and is looking for a big response from his lacklustre side. Billingham will have to do without the injured Jack Davies and the unavailable Jack Emerson this weekend, but otherwise Brown should have a full bench at his disposal.
The Stars’ Head Coach Tom Brown wants nothing less than four points this weekend, despite the quality of the opposition:
“Last weekend was not good enough and the guys know it. Nothing about that performance was acceptable. We have skated hard this week in training, and refocused on what we have learned so far. The guys have had a lot to take in, but they need to take what they have learned and implement it out there on the ice. I want four [points] from the guys, they know it and I want to see them work for it.”
Billingham are on the road at Hull Pirates in the North Cup tomorrow afternoon, face off 6pm. They then welcome Solway Sharks to the Forum on Sunday evening for their second North Cup encounter of the season, 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].
Solway Sharks v Solihull Barons, Saturday 7pm
Sutton Sting v Whitley Warriors, Saturday 7.30pm
Blackburn Hawks v Solihull Barons, Sunday 5.30pm
Nottingham Lions v Hull Pirates, Sunday 7.30pm
Hull Pirates v Billingham Stars, Saturday 6pm
Billingham Stars v Solway Sharks, Sunday 6.30pm
Images courtesy of Linda Crabtree