NIHL North preview: Payette wants special night at Hillheads

Whitley Warriors face Billingham Stars in NIHL Northern Cup on Sunday bidding to secure their first win of the season.

The build-up to the game has seen Warriors and Stars join forces to try and raise money for a local youngster in need of expensive life-saving treatment.

Frankie Sherwood has been diagnosed with stage four high risk neuroblastoma, an aggressive childhood cancer, and the clubs are hoping a bumper crowd at Hillheads will support the campaign to secure the funds he needs.

Warriors’ forward Andre Payette said: “The response to this from the North East hockey community and beyond has been fantastic.

“I found out about Frankie last week and it really resonated with me – I have a son who’s a similar age and this really hit home.

“Once we got the OK from the family to support their campaign, everyone has been brilliant – the rink owners and the fans have really rallied around.

“We know we’re not going to raise the total amount needed, but hopefully we can help raise awareness via social media for someone to step in and help.”

On the ice, Warriors have made a disappointing start to the campaign although last week’s 3-3 draw at home to Telford Tigers NIHL was a sign they may have turned the corner.

Payette believes their recent performances have improved, but says Sunday’s clash with the Stars is a “must-win” game.

“A win would set up our season nicely,” added Payette. “We need the fans to create an electric atmosphere which we can feed off.

“The players will really enjoy playing in front of a bigger crowd and hopefully we can give our fans the result they want.”

Deeside Dragons host the Tigers on Sunday aiming to record their third league win in a row.

Import forwards Filip Supa and Markus Kankaanranta have inspired the Dragons to away victories against the Tigers and Solihull Barons, pushing them into second place in Moralee D1.

Player/Coach Scott McKenzie said: “Both imports have really stepped up to the plate in recent weeks.

“Losing Adrian (Palak) in pre-season was a blow for the team, but both Filip and Markus have decided they want to step up and contribute the goals that he was scoring last season.

“They are going about their business and scoring crucial goals for us with clinical finishing and we’re causing a few surprises, which is great to see with a mix of young and experienced lads.”

Laidler D2 promotion hopefuls Blackburn Eagles travel to Bradford Bulldogs on Saturday looking to make it four wins out of four this season.

Eagles followed up their opening day success at Coventry Blaze with two victories over Altrincham Aces and Player/Coach Scott Barnett wants more of the same at Bradford.

“We’ve had the ideal start to the season,” said Barnett. “Getting a win in the first game settled us down ready for what we knew would be a good weekend against the Aces.

“Those games were very different, but I saw some really positive plays from my lads. Our systems are coming along nicely and our special teams have done their job.

“We’ve had sustained periods of play where we’ve outshot teams by a large margin, and we’ve dominated the run of the game.

“This weekend is another test for us. Bradford play their own rink well, but we’ll just take it one shift at a time.

“We’re going in to each game this year with the same mentality – to do what it takes to secure points.

WEEKEND FIXTURES

NIHL North Moralee D1

Saturday

Solway Sharks v Solihull Barons

Sunday

Blackburn Hawks v Solihull Barons
Deeside Dragons v Telford Tigers NIHL
Whitley Warriors v Billingham Stars (Cup)

NIHL North Laidler D2

Saturday

Bradford Bulldogs v Blackburn Eagles

Sunday

Hull Jets v Coventry Blaze NIHL
Nottingham Lions v Altrincham Aces

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