Weekend Preview: Sharks v Stars 271121 / Comets v Stars 281121
BILLINGHAM STARS take to the road this weekend and head north of the border for two testing games in both National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 and the North Cup.
First up today is a trip to Division 1 leaders Solway Sharks for what is usually a hard-fought clash against a side known for their miserly nature in terms of goals conceded. Billingham have faced the Sharks three times already this season, coming out on the wrong end of the result on each occasion. However the Stars are by no means alone – Solway have lost just once so far this year in all competitions and are in pole position to take at least some of the silverware on offer. Key to the Dumfries-based outfit’s success is their ‘build from the back’ strategy which sees them let in very few goals whilst having the scoring prowess to put the puck in the net at the other end, a conundrum Billingham’s forwards will have to solve this evening.
Tomorrow sees the Stars take on surprise North Cup semi-finalists Dundee Comets as the round-robin stage of the competition nears its end. Dundee were expected by many to merely ‘make up the numbers’ but confounded those critics by defeating Whitley Warriors last weekend on Tyneside to make sure of their semi-final slot where they will take on Solihull Barons. The Comets are strong in all departments having recruited well on the back of the mothballing of fellow Scottish National League side Murrayfield Racers, but no more so than between the pipes where Finnish netminder Toni Tammi is making many of the headlines. Dundee ran out 1-6 victors on Teesside earlier this month, so Billingham will need to step up their game considerably if they are to get anything from tomorrow night’s fixture.
The Stars new coaching set-up will have the luxury of a full bench travelling this weekend, with the addition of another talented junior Star in 16-year-old Finn Bradon who is expected to make his debut tonight. Coaches Stephen Foster and Rob Wilkinson have been tinkering with the lines this week in training in a bid to turn recent narrow losses into wins – the burden of responsibility will also be expected to fall on the defence as Billingham take on two very well-drilled sides. A winning combination may be tricky to find this weekend, but as the Stars are learning with every game, a 60-minute performance means anything is possible at this level.
General Manager Allen Flavell is hoping some changes will make a real difference this weekend:
“We have something to prove to ourselves this weekend. Whilst two of our games against Solway were very close, they ran away with the last one and we know we are better than that. Against Dundee we didn’t really know what to expect last time out, but we certainly do now and we need to show them what we are capable of. The mood in the camp is still positive, we are reshuffling the lines to see what difference we can make, plus the addition of Finn makes for an interesting road trip!”
Billingham are on the road all weekend, a trip to Solway Sharks in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 this evening (face off 7pm) is followed by a North Cup fixture at Dundee Comets tomorrow afternoon (face off 5pm).
Solway Sharks v Billingham Stars, Sunday 7pm
Sheffield Scimitars v Nottingham Lions, Saturday 7.30pm
Whitley Warriors v Sheffield Scimitars, Sunday 5pm
Solihull Barons v Blackburn Hawks, Sunday 5.30pm
Widnes Wild v Solway Sharks, Sunday 5.30pm
Dundee Comets v Billingham Stars, Sunday 5pm