Ultimate Windows sponsored Billingham Stars

BILLINGHAM STARS have just three games left of the regular National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 campaign to claim the highest spot they can to improve their chances of a more favourable playoff draw, starting with a trip to League champions Solway Sharks tonight and their final home League game of the season tomorrow evening against Widnes Wild.

Solway were not everyone’s favourites going into the season in September, but the perennial challengers for silverware soon got their noses in front and eventually claimed the League title with games to spare as nearest rivals Whitley Warriors faltered. The Sharks already looked good for the crown at the Christmas break, but a 0-9 drubbing of the Warriors on the Tynesiders own ice in January made anything other than another trophy for the Scots highly unlikely. The men from Dumfries are not infallible however, they failed to take the Moralee Cup as surprise outfit Widnes got the better of them in the semi-final, and just a month ago a rare lapse saw them defeated at resurgent basement side Nottingham Lions, only their second League defeat of the season.

Billingham face Wild for the second time in the space of a week with Widnes still patting themselves on the back for securing third spot in their first season in Division 1. Wild came out on top in last Sunday’s encounter with a third period four-goal unanswered blast, and with a potential match-up in the playoffs on the cards, will be looking to assert their authority and make it four wins out of four over the Stars this season. It was the top line that did the damage last Sunday, Player-Coach Richard Haggar leading by example and import forward Vlads Vulkanovs always a threat. Widnes will be one of the teams to look out for as the playoffs loom, having beaten every team in the League this season with the exception of Whitley.

The Stars were disappointed to see their excellent run of form come to an end on Merseyside last weekend as they seemed to run out of steam in the final session and give their opponents too much space in dangerous areas. The coaches will learn from that however and make the tweaks necessary to ensure they give themselves a fighting chance in the closing weeks of the season. Sat in sixth, Billingham can still make fifth or even fourth spot but need to dig deep and do what no one else has managed thus far by defeating Solway in their own barn tonight, then follow that up with a win over Widnes tomorrow. Ben Davison and Callum Wilkinson should return to the Stars bench this weekend, although Wilkinson will miss today’s trip north of the border.

General Manager Allen Flavell is still hopeful of more points before the regular season ends, despite his Stars facing the top three in their final three games:

“Last weekend was disappointing but we’ve already shrugged that off in the dressing room and we’re ready to go again. We’ve been saying for weeks that we need to be playing playoff hockey already, and other than the last twenty minutes of the game on Sunday that’s exactly what we’ve been doing. It’s going to be hard going, especially in Solway, but there’s no reason to think we can’t turn one or both of these teams over – we’re a match for anyone, as we’ve proved many times, and we’re playing for every last point we can get.”

 

Billingham have a double header weekend in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1, travelling to Solway Sharks tonight (face off 7pm) before returning to the Forum to take on Widnes Wild tomorrow evening (face off 5.30pm). Tickets for tomorrow’s game are priced at £12 adults, £7.50 concessions, £35 family [2+2].

 

Weekend Fixtures:

NIHL(N)1:

Solway Sharks v Billingham Stars, Saturday 7pm

Whitley Warriors v Nottingham Lions, Sunday 5pm

Billingham Stars v Widnes Wild, Sunday 5.30pm

Solihull Barons v Blackburn Hawks, Sunday 5.30pm