NIHL North weekend preview

Sheffield Spartans get their NIHL North Moralee D1 season underway this weekend with their roster boosted by the signing of forward Maros Stefanco.

The Slovakian previously played in NIHLS for MK Thunder from 2010-12, notching 91 points in 55 games.

Head Coach Martin White commented: “We’ve been in touch with Maros over the last few weeks about him joining us.

“He’s a proven points scorer in NIHL and we’re excited to be able to bring him into the squad as we prepare for our opening fixtures of the season.

“Maros will bring finishing and guile to us and we’ll look to settle him in over the next couple of weeks.”

Stefanco’s addition is Spartans’ second import signing of the summer, with defenseman Martin Finkes already on board as the club looks to push on from last season’s fourth-placed finish.

White added: “For us to be able to bring in two imports shows our commitment to competing with the other teams in the league.

“We’re also looking at bringing in another player over the next couple of weeks, and if that bears fruit we’ll be able to field three very effective lines and also have the depth to field a fourth when we don’t have injuries or work commitments.

“On top of our senior players there are some very exciting young prospects training with us and we’ll be working with these with a view to using them as and when the opportunity arises. Some have already iced during pre-season and gave a good account of themselves.”

Spartans kick-off their campaign with a weekend double-header against D1 new boys Sheffield Senators. The remaining games see Solway Sharks host Billingham Stars on Saturday, while the following day Blackburn Hawks face-off against Telford Tigers NIHL and Solihull Barons meet Whitley Warriors.

Blackburn Eagles travel to Deeside Dragons on Saturday bidding to build on their impressive opening day win in Laidler D2.

Eagles iced a much-improved looking team at Bradford Bulldogs, eventually running out 8-1 winners, with new boys Chris Jones & Tomas Mitrik both weighing in with a couple of goals apiece.

Ex-Hawks defenseman Wayne Slater was another new face in Eagles’ line-up, returning to the UK after a spell in Germany. He said: “It’s good to be back home, although a bit surreal to be playing alongside some lads I coached as juniors.

“I wasn’t sure about playing again, but the discussions with Scott (Barnett) over the summer swayed me to lace them up again and I’m glad I did. I didn’t get back to England until the middle of July so I wasn’t sure how quick I’d be able to perform at a competitive level, but after a few training sessions I started to feel comfortable again.

“The Bradford game was a feisty affair but we put in a great team performance. There are quite a lot of new faces on the team and I can only see good things going forward as we gel and get used to the systems and each other’s styles.

“I don’t know the strength of the other teams, but the coach has set out his expectations for the year and after Saturday’s performance I can only agree with what those are. Hopefully we can take it that one step further. This weekend will be a better gauge of where we are.”

There are three D2 games on Sunday, with Hull Jets playing Coventry Blaze, Widnes Wild hosting Deeside and Nottingham Lions meeting Bradford.

(Image: Claire Stanton Photography)

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