Whitley Warriors face a stiff examination of their NIHL North title credentials this weekend with two tricky looking games.
Warriors travel to Solway Sharks on Saturday before returning to home ice the following day to meet local rivals Billingham Stars.
The Hillheads outfit have taken 13 points out of a possible 14 in Moralee D1 so far this season and forward DJ Good is keen to maintain their excellent form.
He said: “Getting four points this weekend would be massive for us. Solway away is always difficult – they’ll improve as the season goes on and I’m sure they’ll be trying to turn things around, so we’ll have to be on top of our game.
“Derby games against Billingham can go either way, but we’re the team in form, there’ll be a big crowd and we will play physically. I think we’ll get better as the season goes on – we’ve got Dean Holland to come back soon and he’ll add a lot.
“That will give us three strong lines with a couple spares – handy for double-headers and if we get injuries, which will help us across the season.”
Solihull Barons and Sheffield Spartans do battle twice this weekend, with Barons the visitors to Yorkshire on Saturday ahead of a returning meeting at Hobs Moat Road on Sunday.
Newly-promoted Barons have made a steady start to life in D1, winning four of their opening seven games, and star import Niklas Ottosson believes they will keep improving.
“We struggled a little at the start of this season – it’s a new league for us with new teams and we haven’t had a full squad in any of the games,” said Ottosson.
“It feels like we’re getting into it and know what we have to do. We’re playing much better now and have three wins in a row. Last weekend was good for us – two games, two wins and good for our confidence to win a tight game at Billingham as well. I know we can be up there and compete at the top of the league.”
The remaining D1 game is on Saturday with Telford Tigers NIHL hosting Sutton Sting.
Laidler D2 leaders Nottingham Lions face Widnes Wild on Sunday hoping to maintain their five point lead over second placed Deeside Dragons.
Lions extended their winning run to five with a 4-2 success at Wild last weekend and forward Dan Hazeldine wants to keep the momentum going.
He commented: “Things are going really well as we’re quite a few points clear and we hope to keep it that way, but we know we have some strong contenders for the title. I think we have what a lot of teams don’t and that’s speed, with all the teams saying they can’t match with us on this.
“This weekend will be tough, but we’re at home and have the advantage of the bigger ice which suits us better. I’m really enjoying playing for the Lions again as we have a great team and a great development programme – there’s lots to look forward to this season for us.”
Wild’s defeat last week was just their second of the campaign and they are keen to gain revenge in order to stay in touch with the leading pack.
Widnes forward Geoff Wigglesworth, who scored both goals against the Lions, said: “Last week was a tough game but that was what we expected. Both teams played hard and wanted to win.
“Getting on the scoresheet is great, but the two points are what we wanted so it was disappointing not to get them. This Sunday is a must win game for us in their barn – nothing less will do.”
There are two other D2 games this weekend, with Blackburn Eagles hosting Bradford Bulldogs on Saturday while Altrincham Aces face-off against the Dragons on Sunday.
(Image permission: Peter McConnochie)