Match Preview 22nd February 2020: Home Stand Starts Today
ULTIMATE WINDOWS-sponsored Billingham Stars are targeting as many National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 points as possible between now and the end of the regular season in less than a month’s time, with no better place to start than the visit of basement side Nottingham Lions this evening to the Forum.
It looks like being another winless and pointless League campaign for the Lions, their only wins coming in the group stages of the Midlands Cup in the early stages of the season. A goal difference of -140 tells it’s own story, an ever-changing roster of up-and-coming players from the Nottingham junior system mixed with ‘old heads’ like captain Luke Thomas has not had the tools to compete with the rest of the League, however they continue to win plaudits – if not games – with their approach to the game. Despite another struggle, the Lions have stated their ambition to remain in the top North division as they believe their players will gain more from the experience and develop into better players as a result, benefiting ‘big brothers’ the Panthers and the players themselves in the longer term. This weekend will see them take on the teams just above them in the table, but realistically a bottom-place finish is virtually guaranteed and they will have to watch the end-of-season playoff competition from the side lines as the only side not to qualify.
The season has not gone much better for the Stars, adrift of the main challengers and battling Blackburn Hawks to avoid sixth spot and consequently a more unfavourable draw in the playoff round-robin. The signs of a possible late-season revival were evident last weekend at Whitley Warriors when a more spirited looking performance from Billingham pushed the likely title winners much harder on their own ice than has been evident for the whole season. But for some better shot selection in front of the net, the score line could have been closer than the 6-3 final result, and a couple of fights involving ‘new man’ Dave Thomas showed what the Stars have perhaps been lacking at the back. The Stars’ other new signing Lewis Jones will be facing his former club this evening and will no doubt want to make an impression. Billingham will have the relative luxury of a full bench this evening and will be looking for a comfortable win to set up their four-game home stand to complete the regular season schedule.
General Manager Allen Flavell wants to see the best of his Stars as the playoffs loom ever closer:
“It’s easy to say it’s ‘just Nottingham’ on Saturday but we will not be taking the game, or the Lions, lightly. They are a well-drilled side capable of causing problems in patches, they are used to defending for long spells, and whilst they may be bottom of the League they still have their own targets and objectives – getting some points before the end of the season is surely one of those and we cannot afford to switch off. That said, the game does give us a platform to get some confidence ahead of the run-in and of course the playoffs are only around the corner. I expect to see a lot of our younger players against Nottingham – they have been superb for us this season and the future of the club is certainly looking bright.”
Nottingham Lions visit the Forum for a National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 clash this evening, face off 6pm. Tickets can be bought from the box office from 5pm priced at £12 adults, £7.50 concessions, £35 family [2+2].
Blackburn Hawks v Sutton Sting, Saturday 5.45pm
Billingham Stars v Nottingham Lions, Saturday 6pm
Solihull Barons v Sutton Sting, Sunday 5.30pm
Nottingham Lions v Blackburn Hawks, Sunday 5.40pm
Images courtesy of Colin Edwards Photography