Match Preview: Wild v Stars 270322
BILLINGHAM STARS are the team in form as they head over to Merseyside tomorrow for their third National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 road trip on the bounce to face a Widnes Wild outfit chasing third spot in the League.
Widnes - like their opponents tomorrow evening - are one of the League’s form teams, putting together a late run that has seen them overtake Solihull Barons in third with a string of impressive results. Wild are also the only team to have already secured silverware this season with an unexpected Moralee Cup win in what has been a hugely successful first season in the higher division, Widnes having spent the entirety of their history to date in the Laidler Conference before this campaign. Player Coach Richard Haggar has built a strong squad with a healthy mix of youth and experience, backstopped by the talented Harrison Walker. Their recent run has seen them not only overtake the Barons, but also put clear daylight between themselves and the chasing pack – a gap they will be in no hurry to relinquish as the end of season showpiece nears. A home double header weekend sees them take on Blackburn Hawks this evening, the reverse fixture last weekend got a little too spicy after the buzzer which will add an extra edge to tonight’s game.
Billingham go into tomorrow’s game on the back of their best run in the League for some time, a sequence of five wins from their last six games has catapulted them back into contention for a top four finish. Both Sheffield Scimitars in fifth and Solihull in fourth are well within the Stars reach, Widnes are five points in the distance however the two sides face each other twice in these closing weeks of the regular season so a couple of wins for the Teessiders would see them potentially narrow that gap to a single point. With every point now vital, Billingham have hit form at the right time and will be looking for their fourth win on the road on the spin. An almost full bench is expected to travel, Joe Walls returns after missing last Sunday’s victory at Solihull through illness but Ben Davison will be absent.
General Manager Allen Flavell is delighted to see his side proving the doubters wrong:
“We’ve won 11 League games now, which is 11 more than some observers had us down for at the beginning of the season! Our recent run is just desserts for the lads, they’ve worked so hard and done everything we’ve asked of them. They are surprising people, not just with the results but also the way they are playing – it’s been pretty to watch at times. All the hard graft is paying off, the team spirit is one of the best I’ve encountered in all my years of hockey, and whilst we are not the best team in the League we have now proved that we can give literally anyone a game at this level. We have nothing to fear and nothing to lose – Widnes already have a trophy in the cabinet and have surprised a few people themselves, but we will approach the game the same way we have done all season, and as we have seen, anything can happen.”
The Stars will travel to Widnes Wild for a National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 fixture tomorrow evening, face off 5.30pm.
Widnes Wild v Blackburn Hawks, Saturday 5.30pm
Solway Sharks v Sheffield Scimitars, Saturday 7pm
Solihull Barons v Whitley Warriors, Sunday 5.30pm
Widnes Wild v Billingham Stars, Sunday 5.30pm
Sheffield Scimitars v Blackburn Hawks, Sunday 6.30pm