NIHL North preview: It’s make-or-break for Stars

Billingham Stars face what could be a pivotal weekend for their hopes of securing NIHL North silverware this season.

Stars host Blackburn Hawks in the Northern Cup on Saturday with both teams defending 100% records, while Sunday’s trip to Sheffield Senators is a must-win game if they’re to keep their slim Moralee D1 play-off hopes alive.

Stars’ Director of Coaching Terry Ward commented: “We all know what Blackburn are capable of, but we go into this game with no other plan but to win.

“It’s what we do every match – we can’t go into any game thinking that we might lose because we will get a hiding.

“Certainly if we play the way we did last Sunday in the second against the Tigers we will come away empty-handed, but we have learned from that game and we believe we can get a result.

“We have a league game against the Hawks in a few weeks time here too, we don’t want to give them anything at all, we’re not here to make things easy for them.

“We can’t let up against the Senators because they have shown they are not quitters – they will keep fighting for points until the end of the season.

“We need to get a grip of the larger ice pad and make sure of the points, then it’s up to other teams to win their games. We can only control what happens in our own games, then it’s down to fate.”

Solway Sharks travel to Sheffield Spartans and Sutton Sting this weekend aiming to keep up the pressure on the Stars in the race to reach the play-offs.

Sharks are just a point behind the Stars, but have four games in hand on the Teessiders and are big favourites to clinch a top-four spot.

The Dumfries outfit lost to title-chasing Whitley Warriors last Sunday and Head Coach Martin Grubb is hoping they can bounce back this weekend.

“We knew going into Whitley would be tough but to go in short-benched made it an even tougher task,” he said. “I thought we started well enough and had a few chances but we lost a soft goal to go in behind after the first period.

“The disappointing thing was we didn’t built on a decent start and we gifted Whitley goals by making mistakes and we need to cut that out.

“We scored a couple of powerplay goals and I can’t fault the boys as they battled hard until the end, but when you gift teams soft goals it’s always tough to win. We’ll now look to regroup and get ready for a big weekend ahead on the road.

“We know that going to Sheffield to play the Spartans and Sting will have a huge bearing on all three teams’ seasons with play-off spots and relegation play-off places still to be decided.

“We know we need to get four huge points if we are to keep moving forward.”

“Both teams will be difficult to play against in their own rink, but we know that by playing our game and taking things one period at a time we will give ourselves a chance to win.

“We need to be solid for 120 minutes and find a way to get the job done.”

WEEKEND FIXTURES

NIHL North Moralee D1

Saturday

Sheffield Senators v Solihull Barons
Sheffield Spartans v Solway Sharks

Sunday

Blackburn Hawks v Telford Tigers NIHL
Sheffield Senators v Billingham Stars
Solihull Barons v Whitley Warriors
Sutton Sting v Solway Sharks

NIHL North Laidler D2

Saturday

Coventry Blaze v Blackburn Eagles
Deeside Dragons v Bradford Bulldogs

Sunday

Nottingham Lions v Coventry Blaze
Widnes Wild v Bradford Bulldogs

NIHL Northern Cup

Saturday

Billingham Stars v Blackburn Hawks

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