NIHL North preview: Sting close to elusive first win

Chris Wilcox believes Sutton Sting are playing well despite picking up just one point so far this season.

A 4-4 draw against Sunday’s opponents Deeside Dragons is all Sting have to show from five NIHL North games, but Wilcox says performances have been better than the Moralee D1 table shows.

“Overall I’m not too upset with how we’ve started the season,” said Wilcox.

“Obviously the results haven’t gone our way, but we’ve struggled to get a full line-up together and the way we’ve been playing is promising.

“If we continue to stick with what Buttsy (Head Coach Simon Butterworth) has put in place I think we can contend with anyone in the league.

“This weekend is massive for us as we face Deeside again after a close game with them last time. Hopefully we can get a better result this time around and kick start our season.”

Telford Tigers NIHL travel to Billingham Stars on Sunday hoping to put a disappointing start to the season behind them.

With just one win from their first six fixtures, Head Coach Daniel MacKriel has boosted his squad with the signing of Luke Brittle from the Tigers’ EPL side.

“We’re absolutely delighted to be able to bring Luke to the Tigers NIHL,” said MacKriel. “He is a high quality forward with bags of skill, a real eye for goal and a great attitude.

“For such a young age he has a lot of experience and knowledge and after playing on the same side as Luke for a couple of different teams, I’m really excited to be back working with him.

“This weekend is going to be a tough test for us. Billingham have a very good side with skill, speed and grit. They know how to get points in their own rink and always play with energy.

“We’re struggling for bodies in some areas, but if we go there in the right mindset and work smart for the full game, then we have a chance to get some points.”

In Laidler D2, Sheffield Senators host Coventry Blaze NIHL on Saturday before travelling to Widnes Wild the following day aiming to build on their solid start to the campaign.

Senators were relegated from D1 last season, but have won three out of four this term as they bid to bounce back at the first time of asking.

Forward Nathan Britton (above), who grabbed a hat-trick in last week’s 9-3 victory over Hull Jets, is delighted with Senators’ turnaround in fortunes.

“We’ve added some real depth and strength this summer and that’s starting to show now – everyone is pulling together and gelling as a team,” said Britton.

“We lost to Altrincham the other week, but we definitely feel we’ve worked out the “kinks” from that game.

“We certainly can’t overlook Saturday game’s against Coventry, but I’d be lying if I said my main focus wasn’t on Sunday in Widnes.

“They’ve added to their squad this season and have a couple handy guys on their team. It’s always fun playing in Widnes when they get a bit of a crowd in for it.

“We feel we’ve got a team capable of winning the league and play-offs and we’ll be working every week to obtain that.”

Hull will look to put their early season woes behind them this weekend as they play the two D2 teams yet to pick up a point.

The Jets face Bradford Bulldogs on Saturday ahead of Sunday’s trip to Coventry, and forward Kieran Beach is targeting a four-point weekend.

“We’ve lost a few players and the team’s been made up of junior players who haven’t been available all the time due to playing for the U20 team, but I think we can get four points this weekend,” said Beach.

“I’m hoping we can finish fourth, but it’s more likely to be fifth as the league’s getting tougher.

“More experienced players are dropping down into D2, making it harder for the likes of us who are a team made up of juniors trying to develop.”

WEEKEND FIXTURES

NIHL North Moralee D1

Saturday

Blackburn Hawks v Billingham Stars (Cup)

Sunday

Billingham Stars v Telford Tigers NIHL
Blackburn Hawks v Whitley Warriors
Sutton Sting v Deeside Dragons

NIHL North Laidler D2

Saturday

Hull Jets v Bradford Bulldogs
Sheffield Senators v Coventry Blaze NIHL

Sunday

Coventry Blaze NIHL v Hull Jets
Nottingham Lions v Blackburn Eagles
Widnes Wild v Sheffield Senators

(Image permission: Chris Wilcox – Keith & Jenny Davies; Nathan Britton – John Knowles)

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