Match Preview 29th December 2019: Festive Derby Part 2!
ULTIMATE WINDOWS-sponsored Billingham Stars face the second instalment of their National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 festive double header against local rival Whitley Warriors on Tyneside tomorrow evening, seeking a huge improvement on last Sunday’s dismal first episode.
It was the Warriors who took the points and the bragging rights last weekend as they turned over Billingham at the Forum with an impressive display, 3-8 the score at the buzzer reflecting the damage that a particularly poor first period did to the Stars chances of causing an upset. A game that saw points for 12 of the Whitley squad and without Player/Coach David Longstaff who has spent much of this season on the bench rather than on the ice, it reflected the strength in depth that the Tynesiders have at their disposal this campaign. Expectations are high at Hillheads and a clean sweep of all trophies on offer is the stated aim – anything less will be viewed as failure so they cannot afford to slip up and especially not on home ice. The somewhat unexpected challenge from Solway Sharks has ensured that the Warriors will not be allowed to run away with anything, indeed the Scots will go into 2020 on top of the table regardless of the result tomorrow, but three points behind with two games in hand does suggest that Whitley have the slenderest of advantages and nothing less than a win tomorrow will be acceptable.
Billingham are struggling once again this season, a combination of not having players available on a consistent basis and performing only in fits and starts has left the Teessiders languishing in fifth and watching the top two especially disappear over the horizon. Last weekend saw the Stars ship 16 goals as their defensive frailties were exposed, however frustratingly they did show flashes of what they are capable of in what has become the repeat script of the year. The coaching team know that they can do so much better, but to achieve anything they simply must put together a full 60-minute game on a regular basis and be able to call upon their senior players week after week. The rebuild for the future continues apace however, and it is clear that the Stars have some promising talent coming through their junior ranks. The highlight of last weekend was surely the first senior goal scored by Joe Walls, at just 16-years-old an exciting young prospect who joins a clutch of junior players making their mark on the senior team this year.
General Manager Allen Flavell knows how desperate the players and fans are to see a reaction after last Sunday’s defeat:
“Last weekend did not go the way we wanted as two very poor first periods put us on the back foot from the off. We cannot afford to give anyone a four-goal head start in this League, let alone the top two, so it is imperative that we come out much harder in Whitley Bay and not let them have things all their own way. A fast start is only part of what we need though – this is a local derby, we need to restore some pride, play with passion and make sure the Warriors know they’ve been in a game.”
Billingham travel to Tyneside for a National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 derby game against Whitley Warriors tomorrow evening, face off at Hillheads is 5pm. A Supporters Coach will depart the Forum car park at 3.15pm - anyone wishing to travel should contact the Stars via social media to secure a seat.
Whitley Warriors v Billingham Stars, Sunday 5pm
Nottingham Lions v Solihull Barons, Sunday 7.30pm
Images courtesy of Colin Edwards Photography / Linda Crabtree