Stars Not Giving Up
ULTIMATE WINDOWS sponsored Billingham Stars still have much to play for in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 this weekend, a trip to Telford Tigers tomorrow afternoon followed by a home tie with a difference at the Forum on Sunday evening against Sheffield Spartans.
Telford find themselves in a similar position to the Stars, no longer seen as favourites to make the end-of-season playoffs. Their excellent form early in the campaign seemed to suggest that they would be mounting a serious challenge towards the top end of the table, but being a feeder team for the English Premier League Tigers has proved too much on occasion and left the NIHL outfit short of key players at critical times. As such Telford find themselves clinging onto fourth spot and looking nervously over their shoulders at Solway Sharks, whose late run may well see them pip the Tigers for that last playoff position.
The Spartans visit the Forum needing points as they look to avoid finishing second-from-bottom, a position that would put them into a relegation playoff. Another side whose early form looked promising, Sheffield are on a poor run that has seen them lose their last six games on the bounce. They have the talent to trouble Billingham however, as they proved at iceSheffield in October when they triumphed 6-4.
The Stars are now relying on other teams around them to drop points but they are not giving up on reaching the playoffs just yet, despite the disappointment of coming out of last weekend empty-handed. With the League being so tight this year, every game is still vital to one or both teams and Billingham will be fighting for every puck. The coaching team hope to have a full bench for both games this weekend, only Tom Keeley and Jack Davies should be missing through injury as the Stars look to pressurise the teams immediately above them.
Sunday’s game is especially important for the progression of the club and the sport on Teesside as the Stars hold a Swedish-themed night in collaboration with the Swedish Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by local car dealership Mill Volvo. The Lord Mayor of Stockton will drop the puck on the game, accompanied by the Chairman of the Swedish Chamber of Commerce’s North-eastern Chapter. The club have invited many guests from businesses with Swedish connections across the region, the link being the Starsâ€™ top scorer and Swedish native Dennis BostrÃ¶m. It is hoped the night will raise the profile of Billinghamâ€™s ice hockey teams and help forward the ambitions of the club.
The Starsâ€™ Director of Coaching Terry Ward reflected on how significant this weekend could be, both on and off the ice:
â€œWe are realistic about our position in the League but we still have plenty to play for. The League has thrown up so many strange results this season that I donâ€™t think anyone can take anything for granted just yet, we will keep chasing and going after every single point. Telford need the points just as we do, and Spartans have a battle on their hands to stay clear of the relegation playoff place â€“ there are no dead rubbers to be had. We have a nice run of home games to the end of the season, itâ€™s up to us to make the Forum a fortress and who knows what might happen elsewhere?
We have a great opportunity to showcase the team and the sport on Sunday. It promises to be a fun-filled night for our guests and the fans â€“ we canâ€™t wait to put on a good show and introduce the Stars to a new audience. It can only be good for the future of the club, we look forward to welcoming new friends and hopefully new partners.â€
Billingham travel to Shropshire tomorrow afternoon to take on Telford Tigers in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1, face off 5.30pm. They then return to the Forum for Sunday eveningâ€™s clash with Sheffield Spartans, 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]. With so much going on at this special game, fans are advised to arrive early.
Telford Tigers NIHL v Billingham Stars, 5.30pm Saturday
Solway Sharks v Solihull Barons, 7pm Saturday
Whitley Warriors v Solihull Barons, 5pm Sunday
Billingham Stars v Sheffield Spartans, 6.30pm Sunday
Blackburn Hawks v Widnes Wild, 5.45pm Saturday
Images from Solway game courtesy of Colin Edwards Photography.