Saturday Night is a Baron Night
ULTIMATE WINDOWS-sponsored Billingham Stars face one of the sides they have a realistic chance of overhauling in the race for the National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 playoffs tomorrow night as Solihull Barons visit the Forum.
For the Barons, the trip to Teesside is one they will have targeted some weeks ago as a winnable road game. In sixth place currently but having played at least two games more than the teams just below them, Solihull are starting to look nervously over their shoulders as a string of bad results has left them short on confidence. Last weekend’s 8-2 victory at bottom club Nottingham Lions was the Barons first win since the beginning of December, a nine-game losing streak that saw the Midlanders concede 64 goals. Solihull cut second import Filip Supa at the turn of the year, and with the transfer window now closed they will not replace him. The Barons did secure the services of former Lions captain Elliott Perrin and his team mate Paul Stanley in November, but their form is not what it was in the earlier months of the season.
Tomorrow represents another chance for the Stars to claw back some ground on the teams just above them in the table. Blackburn Hawks do not play this weekend, and the gap to sixth-placed Solihull is nine points but with four games in hand. The two sides met just two weeks ago at Hobs Moat Road with Billingham coming away with both points, the 3-2 road win featuring a debut goal for new import Kristers Bormanis. All three matches between the sides this season so far have been one-goal games taken by the visiting side, so the Stars will be hoping to buck the trend tomorrow night by securing two much-needed points in front of the Forum faithful. Team selection will be much as it has been in recent weeks, with injury not so much of an issue as unavailability, so it will be down to the coaching team to pick from the players available to them. The Under 18s travel to Telford tomorrow afternoon which may further deplete the squad should the club decide that the junior members of the team are required elsewhere.
Billingham General Manager Allen Flavell is acutely aware that the Stars need to put on a show as his side struggle with the weight of expectation:
“We know we need to win this one to keep our playoff chances alive – we owe that to our magnificent fans who cheer us on despite our struggles this season. We have to be realistic about where we are right now, we are playing as good if not better hockey than ever but the fact is we look less competitive because we cannot match the bigger clubs in terms of budget and structure. We’re aware that our fans expect us to win and to compete, and we are trying to punch above our weight to deliver what they want. We have the desire, we have the motivation, we just need a little bit of luck to start going our way. We can make the playoffs, but it is up to us to make that happen.”
Billingham entertain Solihull Barons in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 at the Billingham Forum tomorrow evening, face off 6pm. Tickets can be bought from the box office from 5pm priced at £10.50 adults, £6.50 concessions, £32 family [2+2].
Billingham Stars v Solihull Barons, Saturday 6pm
Whitley Warriors v Sutton Sting, Sunday 5pm
Solihull Barons v Nottingham Lions, Sunday 6pm
Images courtesy of Linda Crabtree