NIHL Moralee Preview

16455860The new NIHL season is fast approaching and all sides are strengthening their squads both on the ice and off it.

In this edition we look at the Moralee Conference.

Blackburn Hawks are confident that they can defend their league one champion crown with pressure and fine competition from recently promoted Solihull Barons who went undefeated last season in the Laidler Conference league.

Billingham Stars

Despite finishing second in the league table last year, being beat out to Blackburn Hawks, have strengthen their squad to be a real challenger in the new season for the silverware but will have competition from recently promoted Solihull Barons.

To help in their quest to silverware the club have signed a Swedish forward Dennis Alexander Bostrom, at a height of 6”2 the striking figure adds to the team and to the position of being a forward, and going for the desired goal of silverware.

The return of Ben Davison who eager to add to his goal tall in his prominent position of being a forward, adding to the defence, Tom Keeley his second season for the club after four years in North America, as well as Mathre Campbell who will play for both senior and the newly formed under 20’s league and final a product of the Whitley programme Matt Sellers signs a contract after three years out of the game.

Signing of Jamie Pattison who is coming back from a shoulder injury sustained last November which left him out of the roster for the season. Some have signed with the Teessider’s for another season. As well as Jack Davies who also returns to the squad after sustaining an injury last year.

Whitley Warriors

Had a scrap of luck after an unlucky season ending them bottom of the league table would lead for them to face Wild in the promotion/relegation league however they dominated both games which left Wild disappointed and Warriors smiles of joy with another run at the Moralee League and will hopefully better their performance starting in September to keep them out of trouble.

Crossing state line the Canadian import: Andre Payette, the new signing for the tribe with having previously iced with Newcastle Vipers, Manchester Phoenix, Coventry Blaze and more recently Steeldogs will add to the dynamics in his forward position. Majority of players have already returned with the Tyne-side squad for another season with Shaun Kippin returns from a year break after an injury. Also new signing from Solway shark Jordan Boyle.

Blackburn Hawks

Blackburn Hawks went last undefeated in all games will have fierce competition being heighten with the recent promotion of Solihull Barons who were unconquered last season. Head coach, Daniel MacKriel: “Last year was obviously a momentous season for the team and for all involved with the club.  Going through the regular season and playoffs undefeated was something that we won’t forget that’s for sure.

“Saying that it’s time to move forward, take nothing for granted and go back to work to defend these titles.  We have brought in some new players whilst keeping a solid core group.  Everyone will want to beat us, and the league has now got even stronger, but still our aims within the team are to look at adding to our trophies”

The season will begin with Chris Arone returns for another season a Hawks captain, while the defence of the squad continues to grow strong with Ollie Lomax and Chris Butler both return for another season with Blackburn. Another signing announced with over a decade worth of experience with the same club Aaron Davis with 245 goals to his name will be looking to add more to the tally in his strong position.

With new competition been added to the league after Solihull Barons were promoted and teams like Solway Sharks are aiming for to add to the trophies, Head coach Daniel Mackriel said: “We will be confident in every match we play, but it’s important not to be over confident and cocky.  Teams will want to turn us over more than ever after last season, and with all teams strengthening its going to be tough old season ahead.

“Both teams are good hockey clubs but its more than just Solihull and Solway.  Every team will pose a threat and it’s important that we are honest to ourselves and give whatever it takes to win games.  I’m sure the league will be the best that fans in the NIHL have ever seen.”

Solway Sharks

Last season the team concluded the year in third place just one point behind Billingham Stars. The season begin with a new appointed Team Captain Sturan Tonnar a prolific goal scorer for the squad alongside Club Captain Alan Crane, as well as this, Ross Murray is another vital part of the team as he found himself a regular on the score sheet. With a resigning of forward Steven Moore and Joe Coutler.

A new signing of a 6”1 net-minder, Craig Douglas, previous club he played at was Kirkcaldy Kestrels the Scottish National League winners with his height he should make nearly impossible for other teams to score.

Another signing that hope to make a difference, with the return of popular defender Slovakian Juraj Senko, after a stint at a club called Fana IHK in Norway

Solihull Barons  

League two champions and play off winners are looking to make a big impact in league one as the recently promoted team into the top tier: “Obviously the step-up to the Moralee division will be a big one. 2014-15 was a stand-out season for the Barons, but while there were good sides in the Laidler there were nights when we could get away being a bit slack and still bring home the points.”

barons-saluteLeague one will certainly be a different challenge for Solihull Barons, which the club understands it’s going to be a tough season ahead: “Come September things will be tougher. Every game could genuinely go either way and to ensure our share of wins, the boys know they need to work hard and play hard from the puck drop to the final buzzer. The likes of Whitley, Billingham, Blackburn and Solway are big professionally run clubs with quality players and we will be aiming to match them on and off the ice.

With the return of one of the most important trio: Josh Bruce, Joe Henry, Tomas Janak, who all played a vital roles and set up for the last year squad going victorious in all games and tournaments, with 105 goals between them just last year looking to add to the tally and be a dangerous threat to the teams next season starting in September. “These guys were our starting forward line last year and were not shy when it came to racking up the points. They’ve been together for some time and instinctively know where each other are on the ice, with Josh and Joe playing the role of feisty goal hunters while Tomas orchestrates the piece.”

But they were not the only vital role they filled, with each player putting in their shift on the ice: “They were key players to bring back but so too were most of last year’s squad including the Niklas Ottosson, Ed Eaton and Tom Soar line who played a highly effective brand of flair hockey and at times were simply scoring for fun.”

It’s not secret this year it’s going to be a different challenges and the club hopes to take it in their stride to be a prominent impact to the league. With a final quote from a club spokesperson: “It is going to be an exciting season and I think it is safe to say we are looking forward to some quality sides coming to Solihull and taking part in fast, physical, closely contested games.

“Our support should be in for some great entertainment and our players, particularly those who we hope to bring through from our new under-20s team will be able to challenge themselves against some top skaters.

“Last time we were in the top division we found ourselves back-down after only a year. No-one wants that to happen again and with Perry Doyle now in charge of our on-ice activity we need to be aiming for a place in the top half of the division.”

Sutton Sting

We new player coach John Ross and the returning Slav Movko back for another season along with a new sponsor the Sutton Sting will be looking to return the playoffs.

Sheffield Spartans

Spartans finished overall fourth in the standing allowing them to play in the play-off semi-final but lost out to league champions Blackburn Hawks.

With virtually the same team as last season with Ollie Barron will continue on as captain with the addition of a new signing Mike Mawer, who switches from Sheffield Senators the hopes for another new face on the team sheet before the season starts. But with the loss of their MVP Jonathan Kirk instead signing a Hull Pirates contract might have an impact.

Just like other teams in the league they are committed to continuing improving and push to better their performances last season.

Telford Tigers

Newly promoted team finished 2nd in the Laidler conference league and managing to reach the play-off final but a close loss to the Barons. The Tigers are hoping to make a massive impact in the league alongside Barons.

Under the guidance of assistant coach Jason Perry, adding new addition to help add new dynamics to the squad with forward Callum Bowley and Adam Taylor join the Tigers from Tigers EPL team. As well as forward Dale White who makes the move the Telford from Coventry Blaze EIHL, the return of Callum Griffin and James Gallagher, and 17 year old Dennis Bell who will be net-minder.

Sheffield Senators

For their first season in the top division the Senators have appointed new head coach Andy Chapman. It will be a difficult campaign for Senators but on the back of the open trails the Senators will be looking to keep their status in top division.

Jess Cowie

Jess is a journalism student at the Univesity of Chester and is well known to Widnes Wild fans as the writer of match reports.

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