Match Preview 4th January 2020: New Year, New Start?
ULTIMATE WINDOWS-sponsored Billingham Stars must begin to recover from a near-disastrous December in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 with a trip to Sutton Sting, the side just above them in the League table.
Games against the Sting have been anything but predictable in recent times for Billingham, and especially at IceSheffield. The last two games there have both gone to overtime, on both occasions the Stars coming from a long way back to draw level with their hosts in regular time. The outcome has been a 50/50 split, Billingham winning the first epic encounter on the last weekend of last season, then a controversial late high stick major against James Moss handicapping the Teessiders in the first game between the sides this campaign allowing Adrian Palak in to secure the extra point for the win for Sutton. A schizophrenic side to say the least, Sting are capable of putting together fantastic results against any side in the League but they are just as likely to struggle against weaker teams depending on which side they ice. At full strength Sutton have an abundance of talented players at their disposal with the likes of Stanislav Lascek, Palak, Tom Relf and Andrew Hirst all in the mix and giving the squad a distinct ‘Sheffield Steeldogs’ flavour, the NIHL National side a former club of a good deal of the current Sting roster.
A heavy December schedule yielded just two points for an out-of-sorts Billingham outfit who seem incapable of putting a full 60-minute performance together, consequently their four games against the top two sides saw their lack of application punished severely. The month started with a lacklustre match at the Forum against today’s opponents, Sting nosing in front early in the second period and never relinquishing the lead to eventually run out 5-8 victors. As Sutton sit just three points ahead of the Stars in fourth and fifth place respectively, it is imperative that Billingham start to pick up points from those around them and as such a win today would go a long way to putting December behind them. There will be players missing from the blue line once again, however as this has been the case for much of the season the coaching team will plan their strategies without relying on having a full strength defensive unit.
General Manager Allen Flavell issued a rallying call ahead of today’s crucial match:
“We have gotten ourselves into a bit of a mess but only we can find a way out of it. I believe we have enough talent in our squad to compete with the best this League has to offer, however if we are not all on the same page and giving it 100% then we have seen over the last month what can happen. The boys need to be switched on from the first drop of the puck until the final buzzer, and everyone needs to step up to the plate. The time for excuses has gone – we need to show everyone what we are capable of, start getting results and get 2020 off to the right start with a win over Sutton. If we believe in ourselves then there is absolutely no reason this cannot happen.”
Billingham will be at IceSheffield for a National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 clash with Sutton Sting this afternoon, the rearranged face off time is 4.30pm.
Sutton Sting v Billingham Stars, Saturday 4.30pm
Solway Sharks v Solihull Barons, Saturday 7pm
Sutton Sting v Solway Sharks, Sunday 4.15pm
Whitley Warriors v Nottingham Lions, Sunday 5pm
Image credit: Linda Crabtree