NIHL North weekend preview

Simon Leach (left) & Allen Flavell (right) welcome Karl Culley

Billingham Stars have confirmed two major new signings ahead of their upcoming KD Flavell Welding Cup Final against Solway Sharks. In addition to persuading ex-Whitley Warriors star Karl Culley to come out of retirement, Coach Simon Leach has snapped up dual-national British-Australian forward Dave Manning from Adelaide Adrenaline.

Culley makes his debut in Sunday’s first-leg at TFM Ice Arena, while Manning should be available for next weekend’s return in Dumfries. Manning played junior hockey for Los Angeles Kings, before progressing into US college hockey and Leach believes he’ll have a major impact in NIHL North, “Dave is a worthy addition as he’s physical in front of goal and will add a dimension I think we’ve been lacking,” said Leach. “He’s very keen to come to Billingham and is flying in on Monday. He’ll start training next week and subject to registration should be available for next week’s second leg.”

Culley returns to NIHL North after 18 months away from the game, but is keen to make his mark for the Stars, “I’m looking forward to playing for Simon again,” said Culley. “We go back a long way, so it was good to get the call. I haven’t played competitive hockey this season, but Simon’s persuaded me to come back and I’m looking forward to getting up to speed. I hope I can help bring some more trophies to Billingham.”

Leach admitted his team face a big task against the Sharks, but is hopefully his new signings can swing things their way, “It would be a huge boost to take the first piece of silverware this season. We identified a problem converting chances into goals and hope that bringing in Karl and Dave will go a long way to addressing that issue.”

Solway are in league action on Saturday as they host Blackburn, while Hawks return home the following day to face Coventry Blaze. Play-off chasing Sutton Sting are away at Sheffield Spartans and Telford Titans, while relegation threatened Trafford Metros host Coventry before an awkward trip to play the Spartans. Whitley Warriors’ only game of the weekend is on Saturday away at Telford.

The big clash in NIHL2 North is on Sunday as second placed Deeside Dragons host leaders Nottingham Lions. Dragons would move top with a win and Player/Coach Steve Fellows believes the result could have a huge bearing on where the title ends up, “This is a big one for us,” said Fellows. “We’ve been working hard all season to keep in touch with the top and if we can get a win against Nottingham, who dropped points last weekend, we’ll give ourselves a great chance to win the league.”

There’s just two other games in Division Two with promotion chasers Solihull Barons in action at Hull Stingrays, while Sheffield Senators host Fylde Flyers.

(Image permission: IceHockeyMedia)

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