â€˜Must-Winâ€™ Weekend For Stars
ULTIMATE WINDOWS sponsored Billingham Stars return to National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 action with another double-header of critical games as the race for the play-offs heats up, a trip to Dumfries tomorrow afternoon to face Solway Sharks followed by the visit of Sutton Sting to the Forum on Sunday evening.
Solway are trying to make up lost ground after a miserable start to the season saw them languishing near the foot of the table until the turn of the year. Their form has picked up considerably since then, and although they are still in sixth place they have games in hand on all of their rivals sitting above them. This includes the Stars in fifth place but only two points ahead, making tomorrow’s game critical in deciding the final League standings. Both sides will see this as a must-win fixture, Billingham with the slight psychological edge having won both of their previous games in Dumfries, plus last Saturdayâ€™s dramatic overtime Cup victory at the Forum.
Sutton visit the Forum on Sunday not mathematically out of the running for the play-offs, but realistically they need a miracle to make fourth spot. More pressing for the Sting is avoiding any involvement in a relegation play-off, so they have more to play for than pride on Sunday evening.Â Sutton have been more consistent of late and have posed problems for every team in the League over the course of the season, so Billingham will have to be on top of their game to secure the two points they desperately need.
The Stars know they have another massive weekend ahead of them and cannot afford to slip up. The under-20s side have a fixture at Blackburn tomorrow afternoon, however the importance of the Solway game means that Luke Brown and Will Robson will travel with the senior team. Netminding will be an issue as James Flavell and Ben Gill are both unavailable tomorrow, Flavell should return for Sunday’s home clash with the Sting. Long-term injuries keep Tom Keeley and Jack Davies out, whilst Andy Finn is unavailable tomorrow afternoon.
Billingham General Manager Allen Flavell is well aware of just how important this weekend could be to his sideâ€™s play-off ambitions:
â€œThere is no way of understating this weekend â€“ we must get four points. The Solway game in particular is crucial to our hopes, they sit just behind us but they have games in hand, it is up to us to keep our destiny under our own control. Weâ€™ve beaten them twice up there this season so we know it can be done, but they are an excellent side and weâ€™ll have to be at our very best. We have a short bench to face the Sharks but we will go with confidence and I know we can get a result.
Sutton at home on paper looks the easier tie but there really are no easy games in this League. The Sting got the better of us when we faced them at iceSheffield and they need the points just as much as we do. Itâ€™s a huge weekend â€“ the points that we dropped earlier in the season may well come back to haunt us if we do not keep winning.â€
Billingham make the trip over the border tomorrow afternoon to take on Solway Sharks in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1, face off 7pm. They then return to the Forum for Sunday eveningâ€™s clash with Sutton Sting, face off 6.30pm. Tickets can be bought from the box office from 5.30pm on game night priced at Â£10 adults, Â£6 concessions, Â£30 family [2+2].
Solway Sharks v Billingham Stars, 7pm Saturday
Whitley Warriors v Sheffield Senators, 5pm Sunday
Blackburn Hawks v Solway Sharks, 5.45pm Sunday
Solihull Barons v Telford Tigers NIHL, 6pm Sunday
Billingham Stars v Sutton Sting, 6.30pm Sunday
Solway images courtesy of Colin Edwards Photography.