â€œWeâ€™ll Be Readyâ€ â€“ Ward
ULTIMATE WINDOWS sponsored Billingham Stars travel north of the Border to take on Solway Sharks tomorrow afternoon as they seek their first points of the new National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 season.
The tie with the Dumfries-based outfit sees a clash of two wounded animals as both teams seek to recover from opening weekend defeats. Semi-final opponents at last seasonâ€™s play-off showpiece, the Stars and the Sharks got off on the wrong foot last weekend, Billingham losing out 0-4 to reigning champions Blackburn Hawks whilst tomorrow nightâ€™s hosts were defeated 7-4 at Whitley Warriors. Since then, Solway have strengthened their last line of defence with the capture on Thursday of former Elite League goaltender Andy Jaszczyk. 26-year-old Jaszczyk boosts an already formidable squad that includes prolific Slovakian sharp-shooter Martin Cingel, who had a hand in all four of his sideâ€™s goals last Sunday. The Sharks have also welcomed back fellow Slovakian and defensive lynchpin Juraj Senko who returns for his third spell with the Scots.
The Stars have had some work to do following a lacklustre opening night performance against Blackburn last Sunday. Short at the back on that occasion, Billingham are able to travel with almost a full complement of defensemen, just Tom Keeley and Matt Sellers missing from the Teessiders blue line as Andy Munroe returns. Michael Elder is also expected to play after leaving last weekendâ€™s game early with an ankle problem. Dumfries Ice Bowl proved to be a happy hunting ground against Solway last season, the Stars coming out on top in three out of four meetings between the two sides. Billinghamâ€™s 9-6 play-off semi-final victory in April was uncharacteristically high scoring, and with both sides looking to kick-start their campaigns a tight game is expected.
The Starsâ€™ Director of Coaching Terry Ward knows just how tough tomorrow’s game will be:
Â â€œOur games against Solway are always hard-fought affairs, we both like to play good, skilful hockey. The players that they have brought in are top-quality, amongst the best in the League. Their two imports are both game-changers, and we expect one of them to be on the ice at all times, which makes it tricky for us to nullify their threat. We donâ€™t know too much about Cingel but his stats speak for themselves so we know we need to keep a close eye on him. They did look a little weak at the back but theyâ€™ve addressed that with Jaszczykâ€™s signing. We know we will have to be at our best and putting away every chance to be in with a shout of coming away with the points.
We knew what we had to work on this week after last Sundayâ€™s showing against the Hawks, so training sessions have been dedicated to special team play. We cannot squander that many power play opportunities against any team in this League, let alone the title-holders. However I know weâ€™ll be more prepared for this game – when the puck drops on that first period weâ€™ll be ready. The guys all know whatâ€™s needed, weâ€™ve spoken about it this week, itâ€™s no good playing for 40 minutes as we did last week.â€
Billingham travel north to take on Solway Sharks at the Dumfries Ice Bowl in National Ice Hockey League (N) Moralee Division 1 tomorrow night, face off 7pm.
Sheffield Senators v Sheffield Spartans, 3.45pm Saturday
Solway Sharks v Billingham Stars, 7pm Saturday
Sheffield Spartans v Sheffield Senators, 2.15pm Sunday
Blackburn Hawks v Telford Tigers, 5.45pm Sunday
Solihull Barons v Whitley Warriors, 6pm Sunday