NIHL North preview: Toughest test yet for the Sharks

Solway Sharks face a testing weekend on the road as they look to maintain their 100% record in NIHL North.

The Moralee D1 leaders visit Telford Tigers NIHL on Saturday, before facing Solihull Barons the following day and forward Struan Tonnar is expecting two tough games.

“It’s a massive weekend for us – two of arguably the hardest teams you have to work against to get anything out of,” said Tonnar.

“You can forget about Telford’s current position in the league because they have the capability to beat anyone, especially in their own rink.

“Solihull have proved that last year was no fluke reaching the play-off final in their first year in D1 and will be a hard game – especially playing them after a Saturday night in Telford.

“The key for us will be taking nothing for granted. We need to keep the game at our tempo and if we can find ways to create space and move the puck, we’ll prove to be a team that others will struggle to beat.

“We’re all looking forward to getting on the road and we’re enjoying being the team people are looking to shoot down. That’s fine with us – it’s a compliment to the standards we’ve set ourselves.

“Our aim this weekend is to come away with four points, but they will be difficult to come by. Few teams will be able to play these two sides away from home over a weekend and come back with two wins.

“But it’s a challenge that we’re all up for and we’re confident in our ability heading into the weekend.”

The Tigers are meeting the Sharks for the second weekend in a row, with the Dumfries outfit securing a 6-2 win last Saturday.

A 5-1 defeat at Billingham Stars the following day extended their losing run to seven, but Player/Coach Daniel Mackriel was happier with the two performances.

“When we played Solway last weekend we were heavily short on bodies, but I can’t praise the players highly enough,” he said.

“The work rate, effort and desire across the entire weekend was excellent and, if we had a taken a couple of chances, or a few bounces of the rubber had gone our way, then I truly believe we would have seen some much needed points on the board.

“Saturday will be an extremely difficult game against the league leaders who haven’t dropped a point this season, and it would be great to see as many fans in the rink as possible to give us that extra edge.”

Blackburn Hawks travel to Whitley Warriors in the Northern Cup on Sunday hoping to put an end to their recent run of poor results.

The Hawks have lost six of their last seven league and cup games, but forward Tom Parkinson believes last week’s improved showing at Billingham was a step in the right direction.

“We started the season quite well given it’s a new team, but as other more established teams started to gain momentum we took a dip in form,” said Parkinson.

“It’s a challenge playing against three and four line teams who’ve been together for more than one season.

“We hope that we’ll be able to play three-line hockey going forward with the help of strong young players that will help us gain momentum.

“Our performance against Billingham showed we have improved, taking them to penalties. There’s a strong bond within the team already given the short amount of time we’ve had to get to know each other.

“Even when our performances have been inconsistent, we’ve still remained positive in the changing room.

“We certainly appreciate the fans supporting us and we aim to give an on-form Whitley a stronger performance on Sunday at their barn.”

The top two in Laidler D2 do battle on Saturday as Blackburn Eagles face Sheffield Senators.

The Eagles head into the game with a six-point lead over their nearest challengers for promotion, but Player/Coach Scott Barnett is anticipating a stern challenge from the visitors.

“This weekend’s game will no doubt be a big test for us,” said Barnett.

“As it’s the first time we’ve met I don’t think either team knows what to expect other than a hard fought game with a lot on the line.

“Last time we played Sheffield we were a totally different team – we’ve come a long way, and although they were relegated from Moralee I’d imagine they’ve improved a lot as well having experienced that league for a season.

“It all makes for a very interesting first match between us.”

WEEKEND FIXTURES

NIHL North Moralee D1

Saturday

Telford Tigers NIHL v Solway Sharks

Sunday

Solihull Barons v Solway Sharks
Sutton Sting v Billingham Stars
Whitley Warriors v Blackburn Hawks (Cup)

NIHL North Laidler D2

Saturday

Blackburn Eagles v Sheffield Senators

Sunday

Hull Jets v Nottingham Lions
Widnes Wild v Altrincham Aces

(Image permission: David Morrison)

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