NIHL North weekend preview

Deeside captain Mike Jones (right)

The attention in NIHL North switches to British Challenge Cup action this weekend, with two Moralee D1 teams facing higher league opposition.

Solway Sharks visit Telford Tigers on Saturday, while Billingham Stars welcome the EPL leaders to Teesside on Sunday.

Stars are unbeaten in three league and cup games so far this season, and are billing the clash as their “biggest game for years.”

New signing Thomas Stuart-Dant has made a flying start in Stars’ colours and he’s looking forward to the challenge: “Last weekend was a really good test us – coming out of it with four points was a huge confidence boost for the whole team looking at the weekend to come. Telford are a strong EPL team this season so it’s going to be tough, even with them playing by our NIHL rules.”

Stuart-Dant joined Stars in the summer after moving north from Sutton Sting and he’s settled in quickly: “Things here in Billingham have been pretty easy to adjust to. The people are super friendly and everyone has been more than welcoming to me.”

Billingham are also in league action on Saturday as they make the trip to Manchester Minotaurs.

Deeside Dragons face a tricky looking weekend double-header as they bid to bounce back from a miserable start to the Laidler D2 season. On Saturday they travel to Blackburn Eagles, before returning to home ice the following evening to face Solihull Barons.

Ill-discipline has been a problem for Dragons so far this year, something their skipper Mike Jones is keen to see improve: “It’s been a tough start to the season so far. Teams are improving, making the league much more competitive.

“We haven’t helped ourselves in the first two games by taking far too many silly penalties which has cost us four points. We know what we have to do this weekend to get results against a very good Barons team and an Eagles side who are playing good hockey at the moment.”

Much-improved Sheffield Senators face Bradford Bulldogs on Saturday, hoping to build on a solid start to the new campaign. After an opening day victory against Deeside, Senators narrowly lost out to Tigers NIHL before bouncing back to win at Nottingham Lions.

Nathan Britton’s late decider sealed the points in Nottingham, but he praised his teammates’ contribution: “We’ve had a great start to the season against three very good teams and we were unlucky to not get a win against Telford.

“Against the Lions we’d been pressing well as a unit all game and rallied together in the period break to get back from two down going into the third, showing a lot of grit and determination. Obviously it felt great to get the winner, but it was a massive team effort.

“Bradford will be a challenge against a team we’re not familiar with yet, but we’re confident of keeping the momentum going and getting the win in our own barn.”

The remaining D2 games see Coventry Blaze face the Lions on Saturday, before travelling to Widnes Wild on Sunday. Hull Jets meet the Eagles the same evening.

(Image permission: PSD-Images)

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