Billingham Stars are in action in both the league and cup in NIHL this weekend and are keen to continue their recent upturn in form.
The Teesside outfit open their Northern Cup campaign at Solway Sharks on Saturday, before returning to home ice the following day to face Whitley Warriors in Moralee D1.
After a poor run during October, Stars have bounced back to win three of their last four games and forward Chris Sykes (above) is focused on keeping their momentum going.
“We know what we’re up against having played Solway last week,” said Sykes. “This one’s in the cup, but we’re going there with the mindset of how we played in the first period and making sure we play for 60 minutes the way know we can.
“Sunday’s a whole different ball game – Whitley at home, Tyne/Tees Derby – it doesn’t get much better then that.
“The rink will be jam packed and we are ready for it. Last time we played them it finished a draw – this time we want the bragging rights and most of all the two points which will be vital for us in the league.”
Telford Tigers NIHL will be hoping for a bumper crowd when they host Whitley on Saturday.
Tigers were watched by over 300 fans at Telford earlier this month, when they overcome local rivals Solihull Barons 9-4. Head Coach Jason Parry believes another big crowd will help his side better their 3-3 draw against Whitley at the start of the season.
He said: “The crowd we had against Solihull was amazing – especially for our young lads, it really helped them to produce their best game. We saw what happened in a noisy rink, so hopefully we can do the same against Whitley.
“It was a great atmosphere the last time we played them, when we pulled our netminder to draw level with just a few seconds left.”
Tigers are also in action on Sunday at Sheffield Senators – a side they beat 7-2 at home just a fortnight ago.
Parry refused to take D1’s bottom team lightly: “We should have played better against Sheffield at home,” he said. “It’s all about consistency at this level and preparing the same for every team, regardless of where they are in the table.”
Altrincham Aces host Widnes Wild in Laidler D2 on Sunday looking to pick up their fourth win from their last five games.
Aces’ only defeat during November was at Widnes two weeks ago and forward Jake Nurse is gunning for revenge.
“The game will be a real test, but we are ready for it and want to make up for that defeat and start climbing the table,” said Nurse.
“The squad has really started to gel and I think last week’s result against Nottingham Lions shows that.”
“Being back at my home rink and playing with some of the lads I’ve grown up with has been great and I’ve really enjoyed being back on the ice.”
While Aces and Wild battle to keep tabs on the top two, local rivals Blackburn Eagles will enjoy a weekend off. The Lancashire outfit have won five on the spin to move into contention for promotion and Player/Coach Scott Barnett is delighted with his team.
“I think the league has recognised the Eagles have come a long way – we no longer have the element of surprise,” said Barnett.
“Our recent form is a credit to the depth we have. We don’t have everything perfect yet, but we are still winning games, we are close to our full potential and when we hit it we will be even tougher to beat.
“We have our own goals for the season and so far we are on line to hit our targets, but we recognise the commitment it will take to get there and I believe we have what it takes.”
NIHL North Moralee D1
Sheffield Spartans v Sutton Sting
Telford Tigers NIHL v Whitley Warriors
Solway Sharks v Billingham Stars (Northern Cup)
Sheffield Senators v Telford Tigers NIHL
Sutton Sting v Blackburn Hawks
Billingham Stars v Whitley Warriors
NIHL North Laidler D2
Hull Jets v Deeside Dragons
Altrincham Aces v Widnes Wild
Nottingham Lions v Coventry Blaze
(Image permission: Dean Reeve Photography)