NIHL North weekend preview

Stephen Wallace fires opener at Blackburn

The top two in NIHL1 North are both in action this weekend, as the race to be crowned champions reaches its climax. Leaders Solway Sharks face another road trip as they travel to meet Trafford Metros on Saturday. Sharks picked up maximum points during last weekend’s trip to the Midlands to extend their unbeaten run to 26 games.

The following evening sees Billingham Stars host struggling Coventry Blaze. Stars came from behind to win at Blackburn Hawks last week and Coach Simon Leach is hoping for another good performance, “We took a number of junior players to Blackburn to help cover shortfalls, but didn’t build up a big enough advantage,” said Leach. We twice found ourselves chasing the game, so the opportunity never arose to get them on the ice. I’ll be looking for the forwards to push hard on their back checking this week and to get back and help defend as they did to good effect at Blackburn.”

Sutton Sting visit the Hawks on Saturday having qualified for the play-offs in their first season in NIHL1. Sting made the end-of-season shoot-out with six games to spare and Coach Ian Johnson is delighted with the progress they’ve made, “My aims and objectives were very clearly documented when I took over the senior team,” said Johnson. “Our GM told me to take this team as far and as high as possible. For us to reach the play-offs in our first year in Division One is a fantastic effort.”

Telford Titans host Whitley Warriors on Saturday, before welcoming Sutton the following afternoon. Warriors complete the NIHL1 fixtures at home to Sheffield Spartans on Sunday evening.

Nottingham Lions face Hull Stingrays on Sunday, looking to follow up their win on Humberside last week. Lions’ Coach Matt Bradbury is confident they can keep their NIHL2 title push on track, “We were delighted to get back to winning ways,” said Bradbury. “If we keep working together as a unit we’ll beat anybody in this league. Losing to Deeside the previous week was a disappointment but it was a minor blip. We’re not looking at other teams or permutations; we’ll just worry about ourselves and if we do that we’ll be fine.”

Solihull Barons host Deeside Dragons on Sunday in a game which could end Barons’ promotion hopes. Barons were one of the pre-season favourites for promotion, but have lost two of their last four games to drop off the pace. Dragons’ Player/coach Steve Fellows admits Barons will be dangerous opponents, “It’s all or nothing for them,” he said. “If they lose to us their ambitions of a top-two place are probably over. So we’re expecting it to be a very physical encounter and a tough match.”

(Image permission: IceHockeyMedia)

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