Match Preview 1st December 2019: League Points Vital
ULTIMATE WINDOWS-sponsored Billingham Stars resume battle in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 tomorrow evening when they entertain Sutton Sting at the Forum.
The North Cup group stage now complete, Billingham turn their full attention to the Moralee Conference until the New Year, Sutton Sting the visitors to Teesside tomorrow evening. The last two League encounters between the two sides have gone to overtime, the Stars coming from far behind each time to peg back the Sting on their own ice, so a close game is perhaps inevitable. Sutton boast considerable offensive threat with imports Stanislav Lascek and Adrian Palak usually amongst the goals, recent pick-up from Leeds Chiefs Andrew Hirst will also add another forward option. It was the Slovak pair that did most of the damage when the sides met at IceSheffield in October, scoring six of the Sting’s eight goals that evening between them. Since that match Sutton have won just a single League game at home to Blackburn a fortnight ago when they overcame a stubborn Hawks outfit by the odd goal in eleven. They haven’t fared much better in the Midland Cup, and will see tomorrow’s game as a chance to bounce back immediately from a demoralising 2-11 home defeat to Solihull Barons last Saturday.
After a scare last Saturday that saw the Stars require penalty shots to get past a resilient Murrayfield Racers outfit in the Cup, Billingham need to start realising their full potential and play a 60-minute game if they are to take the points tomorrow and begin to move up the League table. The Sting sit just a single point above the Stars in fourth place, then there is a small gap opening up to the top three. If Billingham are to keep in touch it is vital they pick up points this month, with what captain Michael Elder describes as ‘winnable games’ against Sutton and Nottingham Lions and huge tests home and away to Solway Sharks and Whitley Warriors. After running short at the back last Saturday, the Stars should only be missing Tom Keeley and Mark Turnbull for tomorrow’s game, although there will be decisions to make with some of the younger members of the squad as there are Under-18 and Under-20s games happening elsewhere.
General Manager Allen Flavell wants to see his side get on a roll after last Saturday’s Cup boost:
“The Racers game had everything for the fans - fast, slick hockey with plenty of action at both ends of the ice. To come out at the end with a win was just the tonic we needed going into a packed December in the League. It’s really important for us to get some momentum behind us if we’re to start catching the guys further up the standings – every game is a ‘must-win’ for me regardless, but when you’re playing the teams around you they take on a bit more meaning. Our last two matches against Sutton have been nailbiters so we are pretty much guaranteed a close one, we just have to make sure it’s us on the right side of the score line when the curtain comes down.”
The Stars are back in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 action when they welcome Sutton Sting to the Forum tomorrow evening, face off 6.30pm. Tickets can be bought from the box office from 5.30pm priced at £12 adults, £7.50 concessions, £35 family [2+2].
Solihull Barons v Blackburn Hawks, Sunday 5.30pm
Nottingham Lions v Whitley Warriors, Sunday 5.40pm
Billingham Stars v Sutton Sting, Sunday 6.30pm
Images courtesy of Linda Crabtree