Billingham Stars start the defence of their NIHL1 North title against Sheffield Spartans at TFM Ice Arena on Saturday 8th September. Whitley Warriors begin on the same day with a trip to Coventry Blaze. Newly promoted Solway Sharks swing into the action the following Saturday with a home game against Trafford Metros, while fellow Division One new-boys Sutton Sting face-off against Blaze the night after. Blackburn Hawks start with a home game against Spartans on September 2nd.
Sting have snapped up exciting young forward Craig Thurston from Hull Stingrays. The 18-year old has already seen ice time with Hull’s Elite League team and Coach Ian Johnson believes Thurston is capable of making the step up on a permanent basis, “Craig’s a formidable young lad who skates well and produces every shift,” said Johnson. “He brings his A-Game to practice and always puts in maximum effort. Sheffield Steelers Head Coach Ryan Finnerty has been on the ice recently with him and has offered the opportunity of training ice with the Steelers, in the hope he can have a plan of progression into the Elite League.” Johnson has nearly completed his roster with brothers Simon & Andrew Offord and Ben & Dan Sayer all agreeing another year with the club, along with Danny Hutchinson. Sting are also believed to have targeted an import forward.
Karl Culley is understood to be considering a return to the NIHL. The ex-Whitley forward is back in training after a year away from the game, with his former club and Solway expected to to be interested in adding Culley to their rosters. Coventry Blaze have confirmed the return of Josh Nicklin & Rhys McWilliams, while Robyn Crebbin, Tom Revesz & Jared Dickinson have agreed another year with Trafford Metros.
Nottingham Lions face an opening day trip to Fylde Flyers in their bid to make an immediate return to Division One. Lions are in Cleveleys on Saturday 1st September with promotion rivals Deeside Dragons travelling to Blackburn Eagles on the same evening. Lions forward Ben Wood has agreed another year with the club, while Flyers trio Bobby Caunce, Andy Clark & Mark Gillingham have all signed again.
Wightlink Raiders have boosted their NIHL1 South title aspirations with the signing of Canadian forward Jimmy Chiropoulos. Raiders have also added young defenseman Ben Lock to their ranks. Billy Phillips has agreed another year with Romford Raiders, while Invicta Dynamos have signed Tom Avery from Chelmsford Chieftains. Dynamos are also believed to be on the verge of signing forward Nat Rose from Sutton.