NIHL North preview: Sharks target Moralee treble

Solway Sharks head to iceSheffield this weekend hoping to secure the NIHL North Moralee D1 treble.

The Sharks have already won the regular season title and Northern Cup, although they will face a stiff test in their bid to claim the play-off crown.

The Dumfries outfit meet Solihull on Saturday hoping to secure a final clash with Billingham Stars or Blackburn Hawks, but forward Struan Tonnar is fully focused on the last four tie against the Barons.

“We’re all really looking forward to this – we’ve worked hard all year and we’ll be looking to finish it off on the right note,” said Tonnar.

“A few of the boys haven’t been before, so it will be an experience for them. For us that have been before it will be key that we keep everyone grounded and overcome the emotions and novelty of the event and get the job done.

“We aren’t looking past Saturday – there’s work to be done first and it will take us all playing for each other to see us progress.

“We’ve obviously managed the double so far, but we’re desperate to be there Sunday and lift one last cup.

“No matter what happens it’s a great event and a fantastic way to see the season come to an end.”

The Barons lost all four meetings against the Sharks during the regular season, but will be keen to repeat last year’s performance when they reached the play-off final.

Forward Richard Slater said: “Obviously it’s going to be a difficult task – clearly they’re the favourites having won the league so convincingly.

“However, we’ve tried to address our mistakes in recent weeks and work on a few areas that we feel could help give us a good shot at turning them over.

“We’ve not had the best run of form leading up to the play-offs, but if we stick together and work hard for sixty minutes there’s no reason why we can’t make the final.

“It always a different mindset going into a play-off match. It’s a must-win scenario which affects you differently from a psychological point of view during the match. Every moment feels that bit more crucial to the outcome.

“I’m looking forward to the whole weekend buzz, having not played last season.”

The Hawks head into the weekend hoping to secure their third play-off title in a row. The Lancashire-based outfit ended the campaign strongly and defender Bobby Streetly believes they can retain the trophy.

“We’re very excited for the weekend – we are coming into Sheffield in form after a pretty up and down season,” he said.

“We’ve beaten everyone in the play-offs in the last few weeks, so we’re very confident that if we play to our full ability we’ll come out successful.

“Billingham are a good team and it will be a huge test for us to get past them and then the final can go either way.

“To think we were bottom of the league about ten weeks ago to finishing third is a huge credit to all the boys.

“We’ve had a lot of grief in recent weeks, but we’re just going about our business and not worrying about anyone but ourselves.

“It will be great for Blackburn hockey with both us and the Eagles being there and we can’t wait to finish this season off on a high.”

Billingham ended the regular season campaign second in the table, ten points ahead of the Hawks.

The teams split their four meetings in the league with two wins apiece, but Billingham’s Director of Coaching Terry Ward is confident his side can defeat the Hawks on their way to claiming the play-off title.

“This is our last big push – we are focused and ready to take on the Hawks,” said Ward. “The lads are fired up, they want that trophy and Blackburn are standing in our way of making the final.

“We’ve got the talent and the team to do it, but we know it will be so hard – every team is capable of winning on any given day.

“It may come down to who wants it more, and if that’s the case no one wants it more than we do. The Hawks have given us tough games each and every time we’ve played – they’ve been on a roll of late and maybe they think the luck is with them. It will be a classic match I’m sure.

“We will concern ourselves with the final only when we have to. Solway have been the team to beat all season long, but it would be wrong to write Solihull off.

“Both games really could go either way, which is great for the fans and should make for a fantastic weekend of hockey.”

WEEKEND FIXTURES

Saturday

Billingham Stars v Blackburn Hawks
Solway Sharks v Solihull Barons

Sunday

Billingham/Blackburn v Solway/Solihull

(Image permission: David Morrison)

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