NIHL North weekend preview

Ben Brown (Widnes Wild)

Sutton Sting face a difficult double-header this weekend as they look kick-start their NIHL1 North season.

Currently in 7th place in Moralee Conference, Sting travel to Blackburn Hawks on Saturday, before hosting Whitley Warriors the following day and Coach Ian Johnson is keen to get some wins on the board. “We’re working hard every week to improve our plus/minus and work out how we can bridge the gap between our forwards and defence.

“We can score against most teams but we’re leaking too many at our own end. I can’t fault the work rate and effort from the guys, we just can’t seem to hold out for the last period. What’s clear is the teams around us have all worked hard to improve and we need to do the same.

“That said it’s not easy when you go from eight regular ‘D’ men to four or five. It’s a tough weekend and we need a good result against either team to set us on our way.”

Billingham Stars travel to Solway Sharks on Saturday in the KD Flavell & Sons Northern Cup, while on Sunday they host the Hawks in the league. The remaining NIHL1 fixture is on Saturday as Manchester Minotaurs face-off against Sheffield Spartans.

Deeside Dragons will look to extend their lead at the top of NIHL2 (Laidler Conference) as they host Sheffield Senators on Sunday. Dragons have lost just once so far this season, but forward Jordan Bannon believes the league will be difficult to win: “Losing in Coventry was a massive disappointment, but the win against Solihull shows it’s wide open this year.

“Personally it’s been tough for me not playing every game and not being able to train as often as I’d like, but I’m getting used to that now and it’s better than not playing at all. Sunday is a must win, not only for the points, but for momentum for a big game in Nottingham next weekend.”

Widnes Wild face-off against Blackburn Eagles on Sunday in their first ever competitive home game. Wild have spent the early part of the season on the road while their rink was completed and the club are hoping for a big crowd.

Forward Ben Brown praised the efforts of Wild’s off-ice management: “The first home game will be a big event for us. Mick (Caunce) and Matt (Lloyd) have been working hard behind the scenes and have a gained a lot of publicity for the team.

“The season has been pretty mixed so far. I don’t think people expected much from us, but getting convincing wins over Hull and Sheffield, and taking Nottingham close has really shown we can compete. Mark (Gillingham) has a clear vision of how we should be playing and I’m confident we’re going to get stronger as the season goes on.”

There’s one other NIHL North game over the weekend, with Coventry Blaze travelling to Hull Jets on Saturday.

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