NIHL North weekend preview

Solihull’s Adam Andrews

Solway Sharks face a weekend double-header as they look to add the NIHL1 crown to their recent KD FLavell Welding Cup success.

Sharks host Telford Titans on Saturday, before travelling the following day to meet Blackburn Hawks and Coach Martin Grubb is hopeful his team can edge closer to more silverware.

“We’re looking forward to what will be a tough weekend and a big one in our quest for the title,” said Grubb. “After being on the road for a few weeks it’s nice to have a home game.

“Telford and Blackburn will be tough opponents, but we’re simply taking things game by game and not thinking of when the league can be won. We’ll just try to win every game and keep momentum going to get over the line.”

Reigning champions Billingham Stars are also in action twice this weekend. On Saturday they welcome Coventry Blaze to TFM Ice Arena, before Sunday’s short trip to face Whitley at Hillheads. The Warriors have edged away from the drop zone in recent weeks, while Blaze remain deep in trouble, but forward Dale Buckland thinks they can still escape.

“Of course I believe we can avoid the drop; we all do,” said Buckland. “We’ve been unlucky, especially losing in recent weeks to Solway and Whitley by single goals in the closing minutes. Billingham are are tough team, they have strength throughout and are one of the only teams in the league who can roll four lines. They showed that in our previous game, but we’re always learning how teams play so this Saturday should be a different story. If we are unlucky enough to be in the relegation play-off, I believe we’ve enough skill in the team to stay up.”

The only other fixture in Division One is on Sunday, which sees Telford face-off against Sheffield Spartans.

In NIHL2 North, leaders Nottingham Lions visit Blackburn Eagles on Saturday hoping to move a step closer to the the title. Meanwhile, Sheffield Senators aim to keep their own promotion bid on track as they travel to meet Hull Stingrays. Coach Andy Ellis is keen to ensure his team keep their focus.

“Hull are inconsistent, but can be a dangerous team on their day so we won’t be taking them lightly,” said Ellis. “I fully expect Nottingham to finish as champions as they’ve been the best team all season. We’ve got two massive games to play against Deeside, but I don’t want to write off Solihull either, although they’ve still got to play Nottingham twice. After picking up just one win two seasons ago and finishing mid-table last year, it would be brilliant get promoted in just our third year.”

Solihull bounced back into the promotion picture last weekend with a 7-5 win over Deeside, and defenseman Adam Andrews still thinks Barons can claim a return back to NIHL1.

“The Deeside result was massive for us, as a loss would have put an end to any hopes of promotion,” said Andrews. “The Dragons came to play and we knew we had a game on our hands, but as a team we put in one of our best performances this season. It’s fair to say Nottingham look to have automatic promotion wrapped up, so realistically we’re chasing second spot. All we can do is win our last four games and hope other results go our way.”

Sunday’s remaining game in Division Two is at Cleveleys, as Fylde Flyers meet Hull.

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