Match Preview 23rd November 2019: Racers Rock Up
ULTIMATE WINDOWS-sponsored Billingham Stars will entertain a ‘grand old name’ of British ice hockey when Murrayfield Racers visit the Forum for a North Cup encounter at the Forum tomorrow evening.
Once one of the sport’s best-known names in the country, Murrayfield have made a successful return to British ice hockey over the past few seasons and this campaign will see them battling it out on three fronts in their quest for silverware. Up against a formidable Solway Sharks side in the Scottish National League, the Racers will find themselves in the fight for second place with a clutch of other teams. In the Stuart Robertson Cup, Murrayfield went unbeaten in the qualifying stages to make sure of a semi-final slot as they aim to defend the trophy they captured last season. So tomorrow their attentions turn to the third of their battlefronts, the North Cup, where Murrayfield will also qualify for the semi-finals regardless of tomorrow night’s result by virtue of their two victories over Dundee Comets in this group stage. Yet to secure any points from their games against any of the Moralee Conference sides, the Racers have nevertheless provided a few scares for the ‘bigger’ teams with one-goal defeats home and away to Solway, and they pushed Whitley Warriors all the way at Hillheads a few weeks ago. Tomorrow night’s reverse fixture was a 2-6 win for the Stars, but the game was a lot closer than the scoreline suggests and Billingham will take nothing for granted.
The Stars need to learn the hard lesson they were taught last weekend when perhaps complacency crept into the dressing room and they came out on the wrong end of a 6-2 scoreline at Blackburn Hawks. A third period lacking in energy and ideas undid the Teessiders in what captain Michael Elder referred to as a ‘winnable game’. Winnable is how the coaches see tomorrow night’s match also, it is important therefore that the side approach the contest in the right frame of mind and do not underestimate a Racers side that have proven themselves to be tricky customers. A semi-final place is assured in this last group stage encounter for Billingham, but in theory Murrayfield could still catch their hosts and change the semi-final line-up, so it is still all to play for. The Stars will be paper-thin at the back once again as Tom Keeley, Matthew Campbell and Darren Stattersfield are all unavailable for tomorrow night’s clash, in all likelihood Michael Bowman will drop back to help out the blue line. Jack Emerson also misses tomorrow night’s game.
General Manager Allen Flavell thinks his Stars have a point to prove:
“Obviously we let ourselves down quite badly last Sunday and there is no better time for the lads to step back up to the plate and prove it was not a typical Stars performance. We were not good enough in any area last week, but we have drawn a line and we move on. It is always nice to welcome Murrayfield back to Billingham, and we expect nothing less than a very tough game. Tony Hand has produced a very well-drilled side with a talented offensive unit that we must shackle. We got the points at their place but it was a struggle to get past them and we should expect another battle.”
The Stars welcome Murrayfield Racers to the Forum tomorrow evening for a North Cup clash, face off 6pm. Tickets can be bought from the box office from 5pm priced at £12 adults, £7.50 concessions, £35 family [2+2].
Solihull Barons v Nottingham Lions, Sunday 5.30pm
Billingham Stars v Murrayfield Racers, Saturday 6pm
Solway Sharks v Dundee Comets, Saturday 7pm
Murrayfield Racers v Whitley Warriors, Sunday 6pm
Dundee Comets v Solway Sharks, Sunday 7pm
Images courtesy of Steve Pollitt