Stars Out For Revenge
ULTIMATE WINDOWS-sponsored Billingham Stars will be looking to build on last Sunday’s first National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 win in seven games when Sutton Sting visit the Forum on Sunday night.
Somewhat a surprise package this season, promoted Sutton travel to Teesside five points and two places above the Stars, the Sheffield-based side having played one game more. Their last trip to Billingham saw the Sting take home both points as they disposed of a lacklustre Stars outfit 3-6 back in September, a result that most had not expected. Though capable of the odd shock, Sutton have also seen some big defeats at the hands of the Big Three especially, leaving them with a goal difference nine worse than their hosts on Sunday. Head Coach Simon Butterworth has had to adjust his side recently with some critical player movements as Swedish import Jonas Fredriksson has been icing for Elite League side Sheffield Steelers. In return the Steelers recalled two-way contract signing Kieran Brown from Blackburn Hawks and put him on a similar deal with the Sting. Brown has made an immediate impact, scoring a hat trick against his old club Blackburn at IceSheffield two weeks ago. Billingham have faced the troublesome Brown a few times already this season, and will be grateful that he is unavailable for Sutton on Sunday as he will be playing for the Great Britain Under 20s side in World Championship Division II Group A.
A welcome victory over bottom club Nottingham Lions last Sunday, plus a January schedule containing plenty of games against sides around them in the League have given the Stars some reasons to be cheerful in a season that has so far failed to live up to expectations. Last weekend saw Billingham have to deal with yet another blow as import Kevin Boyd requested an immediate release from the side, the forward having received a job offer in his native Canada that was too good to refuse. Boyd’s departure has left a gaping hole in the Stars offensive unit, however management have moved quickly to secure a replacement and talks are ongoing to have someone on board in time for next weekend’s games against Solihull and Blackburn. Billingham are also seeing the light at the end of the injury tunnel with just Alex Preston and Mark Watson still on the treatment table, although Jack Davies and Darren Stattersfield remain unavailable. Jack Emerson resumed training this week, whilst defenceman Sam Warnock returned to his home town after a two season spell at Hull Jets. With a larger group of players to select from, it will be down to the coaches to decide who makes the final squad on Sunday.
The Stars’ General Manager Allen Flavell is keen to see a sustained push for the playoffs:
“We have a run of winnable games coming up, starting with this one, although I’m sure Sutton see things the same way. We shouldn’t count ourselves out of the reckoning for this season just yet, we have players returning to the fold and hopefully we’ll have a new guy to replace Kevin [Boyd] very soon also. We owe Sutton for last time they were here, the boys just need to have a little faith in themselves to get the job done.”
Billingham host Sutton Sting in a National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 game at the Forum on Sunday 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].
Solihull Barons v Hull Pirates, Saturday 5.15pm
Telford Tigers v Sutton Sting, Saturday 7pm
Sheffield Steeldogs v Blackburn Hawks, Saturday 7.30pm
Blackburn Hawks v Telford Tigers, Sunday 5.30pm
Hull Pirates v Solihull Barons, Sunday 5.30pm
Nottingham Lions v Whitley Warriors, Sunday 5.30pm
Sheffield Steeldogs v Solway Sharks, Sunday 5.30pm
Billingham Stars v Sutton Sting, Sunday 6.30pm
Images courtesy of Linda Crabtree.