Hawks date for Tigers NIHL – before Whitley roll into Telford

The Tigers NIHL will travel to champions Blackburn Hawks for their first Moralee Conference game in September – before a mouthwatering encounter with Andre Payette’s Whitley Warriors.

A quirk of the fixture list sees the county men face a number of former Telford juniors on September 13th, following the Lancashire side’s runaway title win last season.

And just six days later, Whitley Warriors – featuring former EIHL hardman Andre Payette and ex-GB star David Longstaff – are The Tigers’ first opponents at Telford Ice Rink.

Tigers NIHL Assistant Coach, Jason Parry, is relishing the prospect of pitting his wits against sides at the higher level.

He said: “Every game will be difficult next season, so of course playing away at the league champions will be tough.

“But with the team we’ve got, I think we’ll cope well with that first game and enjoy their big ice pad. Part of that benefit is the fact we’ve still got the core of last season’s team.

“We’ve made sure the guys are together early this summer and getting ready for that first game.”

The visit of likely northern powerhouses Whitley holds few fears for Parry, who is expecting a packed Telford Ice Rink for that first home encounter.

He added: “It is always helpful to have a big crowd at home, especially when the guys want some noise to help them along.

“But I’ll make sure we take the same approach, regardless of who we are playing. We will concentrate on our own game, like last year.”

Other highlights of the calendar include local derbies at home to Solihull Barons on November 1st and February 21st, while Blackburn Hawks visit Telford on December 12th and January 30th.

The season ends on March 26th, when Sheffield Senators make the trip to Shropshire.

Tigers NIHL General Manager, Mike Washburn, is looking forward to a swift end to the off-season.

He said: “It’s starting to feel very real right now – of course there are no surprises, given we already know the pedigree of the teams we will be playing.

“I’m particularly looking forward to our early season home fixtures, when the presence of a big home crowd will be a really valuable advantage.

“I guess the other thing that strikes me is the pre-season hype about individual players, clearly there are some great impact players out there, but we will be focussing on playing as a team – it’s teams that win leagues, not individuals.

“It will be interesting to see how we fare against these high profile teams – especially the ones who have former Telford talent on their roster.

“Of equal anticipation will be the local derby with Solihull – we are all looking forward to that one!”

* The full fixture list will be released here tomorrow (Saturday)

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