NIHL North preview: Lions strive for consistency

Nottingham Lions travel to Widnes Wild on Sunday aiming to strengthen their grip on a NIHL North Laidler D2 play-off place.

With seven games left Lions sit third in the table, but both Blackburn Eagles and Altrincham Aces have games in hand on their rivals.

Defenseman Adam Andrews (above) says everyone involved with the club is happy with their current position, but knows they need more points if they are to reach the end-of-season showdown in Sheffield.

“Consistency will be key now for us, starting away at Widnes on Sunday,” said Andrews.

“We currently hold the series advantage after winning both our home games, so this weekend will either see us tie the series or win it.

“Either way the preparation will remain the same – work hard and have fun like we did with a short bench in Deeside last week.

“We really want to secure a play-off spot with the games based on who’s better on the day rather than over a season. We can take the positives in that we’ve beaten all of the teams above us.

“It will be a great weekend for the NIHL North to showcase their talents and for other teams to enjoy a hockey filled weekend – hopefully with us walking away with some silverware at the end of it.”

Sutton Sting meet Sheffield Spartans in Moralee D1 on Saturday looking to continue their recent upturn in form.

After winning just four out of their first 19 games this season, Sting have picked up eight points from their last five matches as they bid to avoid finishing in the relegation play-off place.

Despite many of their rivals strengthening their squads, Sting had hoped to improve on last season’s sixth place finish, but defenseman Scott Glover says it’s been a tricky campaign so far.

“We started the season with such optimism, but everyone knows what it’s like when you have guys missing all the time and you start losing,” said Glover.

“It becomes a mental thing like the Solihull game – we dominated them and were 3-0 up going in to the last 15 minutes off the game, but ended up losing 3-4.

“John Ross took over the coaching and he came with bags of experience, but he found it hard to play and coach as well as having limited numbers to run with – he is one of our most experienced forwards so we needed him out there.

“Matt Darlow took over six games ago which has freed Rossi up to put points on the board.

“Matt coached last year and is very experienced, so it was easy for the players to adapt to his systems. He has been around the team for a while but changed roles in the summer to become head coach of the whole club.”

Sting follow up the Spartans game with a trip to Whitley Warriors on Sunday. The two teams met last weekend, with the Hillheads outfit claiming a narrow 4-3 win and Glover expects another close game.

“It’s a game we both really need to win to keep our seasons going,” said Glover.

“They’re always a tough team to play, but they are now also well drilled with (David) Longstaff at the helm.

“They look a totally different outfit to years gone by and are even harder to play against now they’re fighting for the league title.

“We’re aiming to pick up as many points as we can between now and the end of the season.

“Avoiding the relegation play-off game would be a big achievement looking at where we were three months ago.”

WEEKEND FIXTURES

NIHL North Moralee D1

Saturday

Sheffield Senators v Blackburn Hawks
Sutton Sting v Sheffield Spartans
Telford Tigers NIHL v Solway Sharks

Sunday

Blackburn Hawks v Sheffield Senators
Solihull Barons v Solway Sharks
Whitley Warriors v Sutton Sting

NIHL North Laidler D2

Saturday

Blackburn Eagles v Hull Jets
Coventry Blaze v Bradford Bulldogs

Sunday

Hull Jets v Altrincham Aces
Widnes Wild v Nottingham Lions

(Image permission: Peter McConnocchie)

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