Weekend Preview: Stars v Hawks 131121 / Wild v Stars 141121
BILLINGHAM STARS return to National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 action this weekend hoping to bounce back from two heavy defeats and recapture their previous form that has propelled them – perhaps unexpectedly – into third place.
Blackburn Hawks are the visitors to the Forum tomorrow evening, a team already making changes early in the season with the release this week of Head Coach Mike Clancy. An underwhelming start to their campaign has forced the Hawks’ hand, Ollie Lomax taking on the role on an interim basis this weekend ahead of a permanent replacement announcement expected very soon. Blackburn’s new owners have high expectations for this season, however results have not been as anticipated and shipping ten goals in both of their last two fixtures has proved the tipping point. Hawks’ short-term issues are exacerbated by an injury to netminder Ash Smith that has seen him miss the side’s last two games. Lomax will want to see a response to last Sunday’s 10-2 drubbing at the hands of Solihull Barons to add spice to what is usually a feisty encounter.
On Sunday Billingham will make the journey over to Merseyside to take on Widnes Wild, a side that lived on their nerves to take home both points in a backs-against-the-wall performance at the Forum last month. Wild are having a somewhat schizophrenic campaign to date, no more illustrated by their two recent games against the Barons that saw them battle hard for the win on the road only to capitulate on home ice to the same team just a week later. Consistency is therefore the key to success for a Widnes side still adjusting to life at the higher level after joining Division 1 for the first time in their short history this season.
The Stars have to pick themselves back up after a disappointing home double header, Dundee Comets and Solway Sharks both inflicting demoralising losses on the Teessiders in their own barn. The mood in the dressing room remains upbeat however, the young side still learning and looking forward to getting back on track this weekend. Despite the results, last weekend showcased some of Billingham’s younger talent once again, and with more in the pipeline the future looks in safe hands. Coach Stephen Foster should see Lewis Crisp, Lennon Thomas and Jimmy Moutrey return to the squad this weekend, only Stuart Jackson is a doubt and will face a late fitness test.
General Manager Allen Flavell believes last weekend shows how far his side have come in such a short time:
“I think it shows how expectations have changed that we are so disappointed by last weekend’s results. Before the season started I think most people would have expected those score lines from us, but now we know we are capable of much better. The lads are all still learning and they are in exactly the right frame of mind – they are raring to go and they want to improve with every game. These are definitely winnable games for us, we just need to make sure we are not giving away the chances that we did last week.”
The Stars host Blackburn Hawks tomorrow evening in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1, face off 5.30pm with tickets priced at £12 adults, £7.50 concessions, £35 family [2+2]. Billingham then travel to Widnes Wild on Sunday for another League game, face off 5.30pm.
Sheffield Scimitars v Solway Sharks, Saturday 4pm
Billingham Stars v Blackburn Hawks, Saturday 5.30pm
Nottingham Lions v Solway Sharks, Sunday 5pm
Whitley Warriors v Solihull Barons, Sunday 5pm
Widnes Wild v Billingham Stars, Sunday 5.30pm
Dundee Comets v Whitley Warriors, Saturday 7pm
Blackburn Hawks v Sheffield Scimitars, Sunday 6pm