NIHL North preview: Dragons home in on title

Deeside Dragons hit the ice this weekend looking for the two wins which would see them clinch the NIHL North Laidler D2 title.

Dragons host Hull Jets on Saturday, before travelling to Widnes Wild the following day aiming to crown an impressive season where they have lost just once.

Defenseman Mike Jones (above) says the two games will be a test of character for the team.

“Many guys haven’t had the opportunity to win silverware, so nerves and adrenaline can take over,” said Jones.

“Last time we played Hull at home we had to wait till the last minute of the game to get the win, so we can’t underestimate them.

“The derby game has brought many fantastic contests since Widnes came into the league.

“Both sets of fans have built up a good rivalry and support their clubs with great passion.

“Sunday will be another physical and emotional game, but as long as we control those emotions we should get the win and hopefully secure the league which would be an amazing bonus.”

Blackburn Eagles Player/Coach Scott Barnett says his team are targeting a top three finish.

Eagles head into Sunday’s home game against Coventry Blaze fourth in D2, four points behind Nottingham with two games in hand and Barnett hasn’t ruled out catching the Lions.

“I think the league has been enjoyable for every team – the balance has been the best I have known it for years.

“We said from day one our target was a play-off spot. We have a challenging run to end the season and we know there’s a lot of hockey to be played before we can secure a spot.

“I’m more than confident the lads will continue to progress down to the wire. We’re not going to settle for securing a play-off place – we know that third is achievable. The games we have left will be very interesting.”

Billingham Stars host Solway Sharks in the Northern Cup on Saturday hoping to maintain their unbeaten start in the competition.

Stars have struggled for consistency in Moralee D1 this season and face a fight to clinch a place in the end-of-season play-offs, but their strong start in the cup offers an excellent opportunity to chase some silverware.

Defenseman Andy Munroe expects a difficult game against the Sharks, despite them failing to pick up a point from their three matches so far.

“Games between Billingham and Solway are usually pretty close and I imagine Saturday’s game will be the same,” said Munroe.

“Both teams had slow starts to the season and are trying to find some form, so we’ll both be looking to get the win.

“The play-off race is really tight this season. The top two have pulled away a little, so it looks like it’s a five-way chase to get those final two spots.

“There’s very little to choose between the teams and it will be about who can find their consistency and put a run of results together between now and the end of the season.”

WEEKEND FIXTURES

NIHL North Moralee D1

Saturday

Billingham Stars v Solway Sharks (Cup)
Sheffield Senators v Telford Tigers NIHL

Sunday

Sheffield Spartans v Whitley Warriors
Sutton Sting v Blackburn Hawks

NIHL North Laidler D2

Saturday

Deeside Dragons v Hull Jets

Sunday

Altrincham Aces v Nottingham Lions
Blackburn Eagles v Coventry Blaze
Widnes Wild v Deeside Dragons

(Image permission: PSD-Images)

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