Match Preview 27th October: Into The Lions Den
ULTIMATE WINDOWS-sponsored Billingham Stars are back on their travels in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 this weekend with a trip down the M1 to face Nottingham Lions tomorrow evening.
A development side for their Elite League ‘big brothers’ Nottingham Panthers, the Lions have struggled to stay with the rest of the Moralee Conference since their promotion from Division 2 two years ago. Nottingham finished second-from-bottom in their first campaign back in Division 1, then last season they failed to pick up a single point and shipped 322 goals in 36 games. A summer of discontent followed as several of the Lions best players departed for pastures new, the biggest blows being the loss of Ruskin Hughes to Solihull Barons and of Miles Finney to Leeds Chiefs. On the plus side netminder Thomas Hovell returned to his home town from Telford Tigers, but outside of that recruitment was minimal and the Lions will look to youth development once again with an average roster age of just 20. Head Coach Matt Bradbury will have his work cut out for him again this season as his very young squad strives to compete with far more experienced outfits, a bottom-place finish widely predicted by many pundits at the start of the season. That prediction appears to be sound as Nottingham are winless in five League games thus far, however they have avoided another pointless campaign already as they recorded their first victory in any competition for over a year with a 2-3 win at Widnes Wild in the Midlands Cup at the end of last month.
Billingham would do well not to take the Lions for granted tomorrow – although generally regarded as the weakest team in the League, Nottingham will not give up on any match and will make life as difficult as possible for the Stars. Nevertheless the game tomorrow will be seen as a chance to let Billingham’s considerable offensive threat stretch their legs and add to the points tally. It is a familiar tale of woe at the back as the Stars’ blue line problems continue, Andy Finn, Ben Davison and Matthew Campbell all out of tomorrow’s match-up. Netminder Mark Watson will also be missing, giving either Thomas Brown or Mark Turnbull the opportunity to impress between the pipes.
General Manager Allen Flavell warns against complacency as his side look for two points to add to their current tally of four:
“We got a big boost from last weekend – three points from four is not what we were looking for, but the manner of our comeback at Sutton Sting and the way we defended in the Cup win over Murrayfield Racers gave me great hope for the coming games. We have tougher fixtures in the next few weeks than the one tomorrow on paper, but as the old adage goes, games are not won on paper and we must bring our A-game to Nottingham or we will be made to regret it. That said I am confident that we will have far too much for Nottingham to cope with, our forwards are gelling well and starting to pick up points across all lines. We should be seeing this as an opportunity to rack up the points and show the rest of the League what they should be afraid of.”
Billingham travel to Nottingham Lions for a National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 fixture tomorrow evening, face off 5.40pm.
Solway Sharks v Sutton Sting, Saturday 7pm
Nottingham Lions v Billingham Stars, Sunday 5.40pm
Whitley Warriors v Solway Sharks, Sunday 5pm
Image credit: Ian Coyle