Stars Aim To Disrupt
ULTIMATE WINDOWS-sponsored Billingham Stars will aim to disrupt the three-way fight at the top of National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 tomorrow night when they welcome Hull Pirates to the Forum.
Hull should have come into tomorrow’s match with a clearer picture of what they have to do in order to wrestle the League trophy from the grasp of current holders Sheffield Steeldogs, but today's clash between the two sides on Humberside has been cancelled due to issues with the ice plant. The Pirates have their eye on the top spot currently occupied by Telford Tigers - on recent form the Tigers are unlikely to drop points to Sutton or Whitley this weekend, so it is imperative that Hull keep winning to maintain the pressure. Much will depend upon their last line of defence – goaltending has proved to be a real problem area for Hull ever since the departure of import netminder Tomas Fucik. A long-term injury to replacement Ashley Smith meant the Pirates had to bring in Sheffield Steelers goalie Brad Day on loan, but the Steelers own woes has seen Day recalled. Fortunately Smith had recovered sufficiently to play a part in both of last weekend’s victories over Sutton and Nottingham, restoring the tandem with Joseph Gent. Hull have no concerns up front, with Lubomir Korhon and Sonny Karlsson in the scoring groove to complement an already potent attacking force in James Archer, Bobby Chamberlain and Jason Hewitt.
The Stars had targeted six points from their last three games, but to come away with just two has got the fans twitching once again at the prospect of missing out on the play offs. Billingham are three points off the last play off berth, and so must look to an unlikely two points against the League’s top scorers to close the gap on eighth-placed Blackburn. It seemed as if a corner had been turned with a hard-fought win in Solihull last Saturday, but Sunday’s luckless defeat to the Hawks took the wind out of the Stars’ sails and not for the first time this season. A settled squad has eluded the Teessiders for almost the whole campaign, however this weekend only Mark Watson remains on the treatment table as Alex Preston resumed training. Preston may not be match-fit for tomorrow’s game, and with a number of players still unavailable the full squad is not quite there just yet.
Billingham General Manager Allen Flavell looked to previous encounters with Hull at the Forum as the inspiration for tomorrow’s clash:
“We’ve given the Pirates a real run for their money twice up here this season, sooner or later the puck will bounce our way and we’ll get the result we deserve. We know they’ll be up for it, for them every game is a must-win right now, but we are in the same boat. We need the points just as much as they do and we have to want it more if we are going to give them a shock. Despite the luck disappearing on us last Sunday the lads are still upbeat and we’re going to do all we can to make the play offs.”
The Stars take on third-placed Hull Pirates in a National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 match at the Billingham Forum tomorrow evening, 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].
Hull Pirates P Sheffield Steeldogs P
Solway Sharks v Blackburn Hawks, Saturday 7pm
Sutton Sting v Telford Tigers, Saturday 7.30pm
Blackburn Hawks v Sheffield Steeldogs, Sunday 5.30pm
Sutton Sting v Solway Sharks, Sunday 5.30pm
Telford Tigers v Whitley Warriors, Sunday 6pm
Billingham Stars v Hull Pirates, Sunday 6.30pm
Nottingham Lions v Solihull Barons, Sunday 7.30pm
Images courtesy of Linda Crabtree