NIHL North weekend preview

Third plays first in NIHL North Laidler D2 this weekend, as Telford Tigers NIHL welcome unbeaten Solihull Barons to Shropshire on Saturday.

Leaders Solihull currently hold a ten point advantage over Sheffield Senators, with Tigers a further two points behind, but with games in hand on the Barons a victory for the home team would keep them in the hunt for the title.

A record crowd for the NIHL in Telford is set to watch the game, with club bosses keen to give Tigers’ youngsters a taste of playing in front of a large fanbase.

Head Coach Scott McKenzie (left) said: “These local derbies always bring a lot of excitement, especially with a large travelling support from Solihull.

“I don’t want our guys to get overawed though, and it’s essential they go out and enjoy the occasion. We have the ability to give Solihull a very good game, but there’s no pressure on our players. If we manage to spring a surprise then great, but that will only come through hard work and heart. We have that in abundance.”

The teams met in Solihull earlier this season with Barons securing an 8-4 win, and McKenzie is hoping for revenge as they bid to catch the runaway leaders.

He added: “We all know the history of Telford and Solihull, but to be honest we have to look at the bigger picture. Until first place is out of reach, that’s what our target is. We’ve only dropped four points this season, so beating Solihull would really put pressure on them in the New Year.

“This week we have been working on our systems to make it really difficult for Solihull, or any other team we play against. No matter what happens on Saturday, our guys have come a long way. The development and progression has been great so far.”

Both teams are in action on Sunday, with Solihull facing Coventry Blaze while Telford travel to Nottingham Lions. Hull Jets meet the Senators and Deeside Dragons host Bradford Bulldogs. There’s one other fixture on Saturday with Bradford facing-off against Nottingham.

In Moralee D1, Whitley Warriors welcome Billingham Stars to Hillheads on Sunday for the first North-East derby of the season.

Victory for Whitley would take them above their local rivals and into the play-off places, while Stars are hoping to find some consistency after winning just two of their previous five league games.

Warriors are without long-term absentees Adam Reynolds and Jordan Barnes, with Jamie Pattison still out for Billingham. However, the visitors are hopeful Callum Davies has recovered from an injury picked up at Blackburn Hawks a fortnight ago.

The remaining games see Solway Sharks face Manchester Minotaurs in the league, while the Hawks travel to the EPL’s Peterborough Phantoms on Sunday in the British Challenge Cup.

(Image permission: Telford Tigers)

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