Match Preview: Stars v Lions 090122
BILLINGHAM STARS kick off the New Year with the visit of Nottingham Lions to the Forum for a National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 fixture this evening.
An extended Christmas break of three weeks was probably the last thing that basement club Nottingham wanted, their last game of 2021 bringing their first League win in 1,442 days as they downed Midlands rivals Solihull Barons 5-3 at the National Ice Centre. The victory was no more than their performances this season have deserved, the Lions unlucky to lose out in overtime to both Billingham and Blackburn Hawks already. Despite their lowly status in recent times, Nottingham’s reputation as a breeding ground for up-and-coming British talent is well established, and for many it was only a matter of time before their young squad got their reward. Their challenge as they head into 2022 is to chalk up more games in the ‘win’ column, and they will relish a trip to Teesside where they came so very close to an overtime victory in October.
In stark contrast to their opponents tomorrow, for the Stars the festive break could not come soon enough after a tough December saw them lose three games on the bounce to local rivals Whitley Warriors, the final game a 9-0 drubbing that featured a final period collapse that perhaps hinted at some very tired legs in the Billingham camp. Three weeks of rest and recuperation were therefore very welcome, as are the three home games coming up in January that will give the Stars a chance to regain some of the ground they lost towards the end of 2021. Despite December’s miserable showing, the coaches still continue to see much to be excited about for this young side and will take every game as an opportunity to learn from past mistakes. Nottingham present an interesting challenge, the League’s ‘whipping boys’ now no longer a side to be taken lightly as the Teessiders have already discovered almost to their cost earlier in the season. In many ways the encounter is a match between two sides putting their faith in young players and developing talent and will be a measure for both teams as to how they are progressing with their respective plans. The coaches expect to be able to select from a full squad today, only long-term absentee Jack Emerson should be missing.
General Manager Allen Flavell wants to see a response from his side after that pre-Christmas horror show:
“We’ve had a nice long break which is just what we needed. The boys have been performing above and beyond expectations since the start of the season and I think that just caught up with us a little in that last game. We can put that behind us now, a new year and a new start is what we are looking forward to! We’ve had some great training sessions in the run-up to the game, the spirit in the camp is excellent – as it has been all season – and the lads are raring to go. We welcome another young team in the Lions this weekend and we know they will also be right up for this one after they got that win before Christmas, so we are expecting another close, hard-fought game.”
Nottingham Lions are ‘first-footers’ to the Forum this evening for a National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 fixture, face off 5.30pm. Tickets are priced at £12 adults, £7.50 concessions, £35 family [2+2]. Fans are reminded that COVID protocols are in operation at the Forum.
Whitley Warriors v Solway Sharks, Sunday 5pm
Billingham Stars v Nottingham Lions, Sunday 5.30pm
Solihull Barons v Sheffield Scimitars, Sunday 5.30pm
Blackburn Hawks v Widnes Wild, Sunday 6pm