Sheffield Senators host Nottingham Lions on Saturday hoping to continue their push for an immediate return to NIHL North Moralee D1.
The Senators have bounced back from being relegated to Laidler D2 at the end of last season to lie second in the table, eight points behind leaders Blackburn Eagles with two games in hand.
Forward Tom Humphries believes the team are capable of mounting a serious promotion challenge.
“Having played everyone except Blackburn we know we can compete with anyone in the league, and it seems that everyone can and is taking points from each other,” said Humphries.
“It’s nice for the league to be so competitive and come the end of the year we hope to be pushing for the top spot.
“The game this weekend should be another good one with our rivals from Nottingham. I’m sure they’ll be hoping to reverse the result from their rink in the first game of the season and both teams have improved since then, so we’re expecting it’ll be another close battle.”
In D1N, Deeside Dragons face leaders Solway Sharks on Saturday aiming to end a run of four games without a win.
After losing just once in five outings at the start of the campaign, the newly-promoted Dragons have struggled in recent weeks prompting Player/Coach Scott McKenzie to bolster his squad with the signings of forwards Jordan Bannon and Jacob Corson-Heron.
Bannon returns to the Dragons after spending the last two years with Blackburn Hawks where he helped them claim the league and end-of-season play-off double two seasons in a row.
“I’m happy to be back in Dragons’ colours,” said Bannon. “They’ve had a decent start to the season and I’m looking forward to helping the team establish themselves in D1.
“I’ve got some great friends here and would love to see them push for the play-offs and do well. I enjoyed my time at Blackburn, but I can’t wait to get started against a good Solway side on Sunday.”
Despite their recent woes, Dragons’ defender Steven Fellows says he’s enjoying testing himself in NIHL North’s top division.
“It’s great to see the Dragons in such a competitive league and giving a number of juniors an opportunity to learn, grow and develop,” said Fellows.
“Given the fact that most people wrote us off at the beginning of the season I feel we’ve put in some good team performances and gained some crucial points.
“We all know how strong Solway are as the league table doesn’t lie, but these are the games we want to play in so we’re really looking forward to the challenge.”
NIHL North Moralee D1
Billingham Stars v Blackburn Hawks (Cup)
Solway Sharks v Telford Tigers NIHL
Billingham Stars v Telford Tigers NIHL
Deeside Dragons v Solway Sharks
Whitley Warriors v Sutton Sting
NIHL North Laidler D2
Bradford Bulldogs v Hull Jets
Sheffield Senators v Nottingham Lions
Altrincham Aces v Widnes Wild
Nottingham Lions v Coventry Blaze NIHL
(Image permission: Gav Rawson)