Weekend Preview 19/20 October 2019: Bus Miles for Stars!
ULTIMATE WINDOWS-sponsored Billingham Stars take to the road this weekend with games in both competitions – a trip to Sheffield to take on Sutton Sting in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 tonight followed by a North Cup encounter north of the border at Murrayfield Racers tomorrow evening.
Tonight’s opponents Sutton have been a thorn in the Stars side for several seasons now, and especially at IceSheffield where Billingham have struggled to contain the Sting on the larger pad. Sutton were the preseason visitors to the Forum, a side that had only trained once together going down 6-3 to a slightly better prepared Billingham outfit. Since then the Sting have had a mixed start to the season, League defeats home and away to Whitley Warriors tempered by Midlands Cup wins against Blackburn Hawks and Nottingham Lions. Sutton got their first League win of the campaign a fortnight ago when they took home both points from Nottingham with a 1-6 win. The Stars must shackle the twin threat of imports Stanislav Lascek and Adrian Palak if they are to turn over a ‘bogey’ side and get a second League win on the board.
Tomorrow will see Billingham make the trip up to Edinburgh to face Murrayfield Racers in the North Cup. As was the case with Dundee Comets last month, Scottish National League side Murrayfield represent something of an unknown quantity for the Stars. Results thus far would suggest that the Racers will be a stern test for the Teessiders, they have one win from two games in the Cup competition to date but that loss saw Murrayfield push fellow Scots Solway Sharks all the way, eventually going down 3-4 as two late goals ensured Solway snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. Players that Billingham will need to keep an eye on include captain Joel Gautschi and regular net-bulger Callum Boyd.
A weekend on the road is always a big ask for any side, and the Stars are expecting two very different but very tricky games. The large pad at IceSheffield today is bettered only by an even larger surface at Murrayfield tomorrow meaning fitness will come into play and the coaches will need to rotate the lines to give everyone time to recover. The good news for Billingham is that Matthew Campbell will return this weekend, but Andy Finn will miss the weekend, Darren Stattersfield is likely to make only today’s game and Tom Keeley is a doubt. Shaun Galloway remains on the long-term injury list.
General Manager Allen Flavell is expecting to be tested by both opponents this weekend:
“The lads will be spending a lot of this weekend on a bus, which is always tough. We need to be prepared mentally as well as physically – we can’t be caught out by ‘bus legs’ or not being in the game mentally against either team as we cannot afford to get ourselves into early trouble. We know Sutton will be a much tougher prospect than they were in preseason, and Murrayfield are clearly no slouches if they are getting so close to a result over a team like Solway. We know we have the guys to put the puck in the net however, and we have the belief in ourselves to make it a four-point weekend.”
Billingham are in action in both competitions this weekend, on the road at Sutton Sting for a National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 clash tonight (face off 7.30pm) followed by a trip up to Murrayfield Racers tomorrow evening (face off 6pm) in the NIHL North Cup.
Sutton Sting v Billingham Stars, Saturday 7.30pm
Blackburn Hawks v Solway Sharks, Sunday 5.30pm
Solway Sharks v Murrayfield Racers, Saturday 7pm
Whitley Warriors v Dundee Comets, Sunday 5pm
Murrayfield Racers v Billingham Stars, Sunday 6pm
Image credit: Linda Crabtree