Match Preview: Barons v Stars 211121
BILLINGHAM STARS face a tricky trip to an improving Solihull Barons outfit in a fourth v third clash in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 action tomorrow, Barons sitting just three points behind the Stars but with three games in hand over the Teessiders.
After a bright start to the season Solihull went off the boil last month with a string of three losses that started with a somewhat unexpected 5-1 defeat at the Forum. The Barons ‘sticky patch’ appears to be over however, a gutsy 4-3 loss at Whitley Warriors last Sunday snapping a three-game winning streak. Traditionally Solihull have been an offensively oriented outfit, and it will be to their forward lines that they look tomorrow as they seek to avenge that October defeat. Billingham managed to shackle the ‘big guns’ of Thomas Soar, Niklas Ottosson and Callum Bowley last time out, and will need to be on their toes in the close confines of the Hobs Moat Road rink that has thrown up so many close games in the past.
An inconsistent weekend cost the Stars two points as they hold onto that third spot in the League, a dominant performance against Blackburn Hawks last Saturday rewarded with a 6-2 win but followed up with a rather tame display that resulted in a 4-1 road loss at Widnes Wild on Sunday. Time and again Billingham have proved that when they are focused for 60 minutes they can live with anyone in the League, their young squad are also finding out the hard way that stepping off the gas for even a short period will inevitably cost.
The retirement of Michael Bowman last weekend left a gap in the Stars coaching set-up, one that was filled this week with the appointment of Rob Wilkinson as Assistant Coach to Stephen Foster. Former Durham Wasp Wilkinson is no stranger to Billingham hockey fans having previously been involved in the junior coaching set-up and comes to the senior side with experience of coaching at the highest level of UK junior hockey with Great Britain U20s and U16s.
General Manager Allen Flavell is expecting a real battle in the Midlands tomorrow evening:
“It’s never an easy trip to make, it’s a long bus journey and can be quite an intimidating rink to play in. This time the Barons have a point to prove on top of that – I don’t think they expected to come away from our place empty-handed last month so will be extra-motivated to put things right. We have the benefit of a fresh pair of eyes this weekend with Rob joining us – he has been watching from the stands all season and can offer a different insight into where we can improve. He has trained with the lads this week and already I can see that he has plenty to offer as we develop this group of players. We need to step up from last Sunday where we perhaps lacked the intensity of Saturday and get back to winning ways as soon as we can.”
Billingham travel to Solihull Barons for a National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 fixture tomorrow evening, face off 5.30pm.
Solihull Barons v Billingham Stars, Sunday 5.30pm
Blackburn Hawks v Nottingham Lions, Sunday 6pm
Dundee Comets v Solway Sharks, Saturday 7.30pm
Whitley Warriors v Dundee Comets, Sunday 5pm