NIHL North leaders Whitley Warriors host Blackburn Hawks on Sunday, in the first of four games which could go a long way to deciding this season’s Moralee D1 champions.
Two wins last weekend saw David Longstaff’s team open up a three-point lead at the top of the table, but the Lancashire outfit have four games in hand.
The two teams meet four times between now and January 10th and forward Shaun Kippin recognises the importance of the series.
“We were very happy last week with four points on the road last weekend,” said Kippin. “The next four games will make or break our season as they are all against Blackburn.
“They have a great team and the fact they haven’t been beaten for a long time shows this. We’re all looking forward to these games, and hope to create a big rivalry over the next month.”
Teammate Andre Payette is eagerly anticipating facing last year’s double winners and says he’s ready to do whatever it takes to help his team secure the points.
“I haven’t changed my playing style,” said Payette. “I am looking forward to Sunday as Blackburn have signed a player (Reece Cairney-Witter) just to see me.
“As I have got older I enjoy fighting even more. There aren’t many takers out there, but if anybody wants their go you can be sure I will accommodate them.
“We have a few guys that are prepared to drop the gloves like Cal Watson, Alan Yarrow and Jordan Barnes. We have the toughest team in the league and I’m not afraid to say that.”
Telford Tigers NIHL travel to Solway Sharks on Saturday looking to maintain their recent good form.
Tigers made it eight wins from their last 11 games with victory at Sheffield Senators last week, but Head Coach Jason Parry expects a much tougher test this weekend.
He said: “Solway have improved recently, and with guys like (Juraj) Senko in the team, they are always going to be a big danger for us. If Cingel ices they will be even more dangerous.
“Of course I think they would have liked to play better this season, but they’re not losing games by a lot. They’ve got some good players on their team.”
“I don’t think beating the bottom side 6-3 last week will make a huge difference, but the guys should be up for this game anyway.
“That is why we’re in this division, to play in better games against better teams.”
Deeside Dragons’ boss Lol Paul is refusing to underestimate the threat posed by Hull Jets in Saturday night’s encounter at Chester Road.
The two teams meet just seven days after their previous Laidler D2 game in Humberside, a match Deeside won 8-3.
He said: “The guys are riding high on confidence at the moment, which is crucial if we’re to keep up the pressure on the league leaders. The last thing we need is to lose on Saturday night.
“Momentum is so important at this stage of the season, especially with our game in Nottingham coming up the weekend after. I want us to be fully prepared for that match.
“We played well up in Hull, but there were some dangerous signs later on in the game. I’m confident we’ll put in another good performance, but we can’t rest of our laurels.”
“When we finally hit our full potential, I think we’ll take control of the league.”
NIHL North Moralee D1
Solway Sharks v Telford Tigers NIHL
Billingham Stars v Sheffield Senators
Solihull Barons v Sutton Sting
Whitley Warriors v Blackburn Hawks
NIHL North Laidler D2
Blackburn Eagles v Widnes Wild
Deeside Dragons v Hull Jets
Coventry Blaze v Deeside Dragons
Widnes Wild v Blackburn Eagles
(Image permission: IceHockeyMedia)