Monday, 29 September 2014

UK Ice hockey round-up (w/e 28th September)

Bentham scores Sharks' first at Billingham
Telford Tigers maintained their unbeaten British Challenge Cup record with a 7-1 win at home to Blackburn Hawks.

Solway Sharks fell 5-1 at home to Sheffield Steeldogs, but bounced back with a 4-2 success at Billingham Stars – Richard Bentham (2) led Sharks' scoring.

Chelmsford Chieftains almost pulled off a shock against EPL outfit Bracknell Bees, eventually losing out by the odd goal in nine.

Guildford Flames won 7-0 at home to Wightlink Raiders, while MK Lightning enjoyed a 7-2 success at Invicta Dynamos - Petr Horava (2) & Milan Kostourek (2) were amongst MK's goalscorers.

Sutton Sting got their NIHL North Moralee D1 campaign underway with a draw and a defeat. Sting raced into a 2-0 lead against the Hawks, before being pegged back to 2-2. Their first road trip resulted in a 4-2 loss at Whitley Warriors – Harry Harley bagged a brace for the hosts.

Solihull Barons continue to sweep all before them in Laidler D2. Niklas Ottosson (6) & Joe Henry (5) led the way as they romped to a 27-1 win at Bradford Bulldogs, and Henry scored another couple in a 6-1 success on home ice against Sheffield Senators.

Telford Tigers NIHL retained their 100% record with a four-point weekend. James Smith scored twice in their 5-2 home win against Deeside Dragons, while Macauley Heywood (2) & Joe Aston (2) led the scoring in a 7-6 victory at Coventry Blaze. Josh Gent hit a hat-trick in Senators’ 7-2 win against Blackburn Eagles and Deeside picked up their first points with a 5-0 success at home to Hull Jets.

In NIHL1 South, Chelmsford stayed top of the table after a 3-0 win at Bracknell Hornets. London Raiders battled to a 9-6 victory at home to Oxford City Stars. Streatham Redskins picked up four points, winning 9-6 at home to Solent Devils and 7-3 at Oxford.

Craig Tribe grabbed a hat-trick in Wightlink Raiders’ 8-7 win against Invicta. Harrison Goode’s late strike sealed a 3-2 success for MK Thunder at Cardiff NIHL1. Solent lost 11-1 at home to Bracknell.

Slough Jets kept up their winning ways in NIHL2S with a 13-0 victory at Invicta Mustangs. Chelmsford Warriors also won by the same scoreline against the Mustangs. Cardiff NIHL2 won 6-2 at Swindon Wildcats, while Haringey Racers drew 6-6 with Peterborough Islanders. In the D2 South Cup, Basingstoke Buffalo won 10-2 at home to Wightlink Tigers.

Basingstoke Bison maintained their 100% record in the EPL with a 2-1 shoot-out win at home to Telford Tigers – Ciaran Long got the winner. Manchester Phoenix enjoyed a four-point weekend, winning 4-1 at MK Lightning and 3-2 at home to Peterborough Phantoms. Swindon Wildcats lost 3-1 at Sheffield Steeldogs, while Guildford Flames slipped to a 2-1 overtime defeat at Peterborough.

Belfast Giants began the Elite League weekend in style with a 4-2 win at home against Coventry Blaze, but followed up with a shock 6-1 home defeat to Fife Flyers. Cory Tanaka grabbed a hat-trick as Hull Stingrays won 6-1 at Nottingham Panthers. Stingrays were disappointing back on home ice as they fell 2-0 to Braehead Clan.

In the Elite Challenge Cup, Joey Martin bagged the shoot-out decider In Cardiff’s 3-2 win at Sheffield Steelers and the Devils followed up with a 5-1 success at home to Nottingham Panthers.

Steelers bounced back with a 3-2 overtime victory at Coventry – Tyler Mosienko got the winner. Matt Ryan hit the decider in Dundee’s 3-2 win at Edinburgh Capitals and Stars followed up with a 6-4 success on home ice – John Mitchell scored three. Fife won 4-0 at home to Braehead.

(Image permission: David Morrison)

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Sting ready for the new season

The 2014/15 NIHL North season finally gets under way for Sutton Sting today after a long off-season of rebuilding.

Sting kick things off against Blackburn Hawks at IceSheffield, before tomorrow's trip north to meet Whitley Warriors.

Matt Darlow took over as Head Coach during the summer and he's upbeat about their chances this weekend."Our guys have prepared well to take on the challenge of this season, with a real focus on team development," said Darlow.

"While others may worry about beginning a campaign against two of the top teams in NIHL North, we have no illusions as to what is required to beat them. Blackburn are a quality outfit, no doubt about that, but I wouldn't be doing my job correctly if I didn't know their strengths and weaknesses and more importantly how we can exploit their weaknesses to the fullest.

"Whitley away will be the usual fire and brimstone affair and it’s always a tough barn to play in, but the old days of being intimidated going to Hillheads are long gone and if you look throughout our roster we are full of guys who’ll take care of our team.

"We'll look to do what every other team is trying to do at this time of year and that is to establish a foothold in this league early, play some good hockey and learn as we go. It's great to be at the helm and working with a positive group of people at Sutton."

Sting narrowly missed a play-off slot last term, but Darlow believes he has a talented roster at his disposal for the Moralee D1 2014/15 season.

"This unit is capable of playing a very high level of hockey and we'll focus on the simple things that are needed to be effective every shift of every game. As long as we do the little things right, the bigger picture will take care of itself.

"We have the opportunity to play some hockey, enjoy the season ahead and learn every step of the way as a group, while introducing our younger guys to the life of an NIHL1 hockey player.

"This is a powerful thing we have here at Sutton Sting and when you have a happy, motivated set of individuals who buy into what is possible then you have a team that can achieve above and beyond if it chooses to do so."

Friday, 26 September 2014

NIHL North weekend preview

Telford Tigers NIHL make their home league debut on Saturday, as they welcome Deeside Dragons to Shropshire.

Tigers began life in NIHLN Laidler D2 with a win at Sheffield Senators and aim to build on that this weekend.

The following day they travel to Coventry Blaze and forward James Smith (left) is targeting two wins: "The first game went well considering we're a new team and had only trained together four times," said Smith.

"If you take out the first period we only conceded two and scored six goals, so if we play like we did in those last two periods we can beat any team in this league.

"This weekend I believe we can secure four points. We have good systems that we’re training every session, to build a strong team to challenge for the league this year."

Blaze lost their opening game against Hull Jets, but bounced back with a win and a draw last weekend. Dale White's second of the night capped a stirring comeback success at Widnes Wild on Sunday and he believes Blaze will only get better.

White said: "It was a rocky start for us as we didn’t really gel as a team. The last couple of games there have been big improvements. Instead of trying to take the puck end-to-end we're starting to make plays, which is resulting in us creating some good chances.

"We definitely won’t make it an easy game for Telford. We have a few things we've worked on this week to be ready for them on Sunday."

Hull have made an impressive start to the season with victories against Coventry and Blackburn Eagles. Jets travel to Deeside on Sunday looking to continue their run, but Head Coach Andy Daintith is wary of facing the winless Dragons: "It was a difficult summer for us as the rink was closed for refurbishment, so it was hard work getting everyone prepared.

"We've had two great results so far – James Pease has a big strong squad at Coventry and they'll become a big problem to play against. Scott Barnett has to take so much credit for turning Blackburn around - they come to play every night.

"I'm so proud of all my guys at Hull, we have an excellent changing room atmosphere and great veteran leadership. Its a small squad, but they give their all every game and that's all you can ask for as a coach.

"Deeside hasn't been a great place to for Jets results in recent times, so hopefully our luck will change. They haven't had the best of starts having lost a few players, but they still have a lot of quality throughout their team - they will come good."

The remaining D2 games see Solihull Barons travel to Bradford Bulldogs on Saturday, before returning to home ice the following day to face the Senators. The Eagles meet Sens in Sheffield on Saturday.

In the British Challenge Cup Solway Sharks face the EPL's Sheffield Steeldogs on Saturday, followed by a trip to Billingham Stars on Sunday. Blackburn Hawks meet EPL opponents the same evening as they travel to Telford Tigers.

Sutton Sting begin their Moralee D1 campaign on Saturday against the Hawks, while on Sunday they head north to face Whitley Warriors. Check C2C tomorrow morning for Sting Head Coach Matt Darlow’s thoughts on the weekend and his hopes for their season.

(Image permission: Telford Tigers)

Quartet back for Sutton

NIHL North outfit Sutton Sting have added another four names to their roster, with Simon Offord, Ryan Johnson, Richie Oliver and Shannon Lingwood all agreeing a further year with the club.

Defenseman Offord (left) has made over 100 appearances in Sting colours over the past four seasons and Head Coach Matt Darlow is happy to have him on board once again.

"Simon is a strong, confident D-man who knows what he's doing and who works well in all situations. He'll also show the younger guys coming up through the ranks the 'Sutton Way.' He’s a great addition to our roster."

Offord said: "It's been great here at Sutton right from the very start and I'm delighted I was asked to stay for another season. We have a strong roster and I know we're going to do well in the league this year."

Ex-Elite League & EPL defenseman Johnson is entering his third campaign with Sutton, but he will have a different role this coming season.

"Ryan is a brilliant addition to our strong roster, but he'll play as a forward this season," said Darlow. "He adds strength and power to our game and it was an easy decision on him returning for 2014/15."

Oliver has been a prolific points scorer for Sting, bagging over 130 points in three seasons with the club. He commented: "I'm happy to be back here with Sting. Hockey is a big part of my life and I’m looking forward to a great season with a great team and friends."

Former Blackburn junior Lingwood switched over the Pennines in 2011, featuring for both Sheffield Spartans and Senators during the course of the season. He signed for Sutton ahead of the 2012/13 campaign and has gone on to make around 50 appearances.

Darlow described Lingwood as a ‘smart player’ who will work alongside youngsters looking to progress with the club.

(Image permission: Gary Apsley)

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Sting add to their ranks

Sutton Sting have strengthened their roster ahead of their NIHL North season opener against Blackburn Hawks this weekend with a quartet of signings.

Defenseman Ivo Celar has joined the Moralee D1 club from MšHK Bulldogs Prievidza in Slovakia, while Dmitri Zimozdra (left), Scott Glover and Jake Gamwell have all agreed another season.

Sting Head Coach Matt Darlow was delighted to unveil the league's latest import: "Ivo brings a lot of power, speed and strength and is going to be a big part of our game here. He's an excellent player and I'm happy to have him on the team.

"Dmitiri is a great addition to our roster and is one of the best goalies in NIHL. His signing was a no brainer when I was deciding on the 2014/15 team. Scott is a smart D-man who was an easy signing to make after his previous seasons with Sting."

22-year-old Celar progressed through junior hockey in Slovakia, before making his full debut in 2011. He has since gone to play over 100 senior games in his homeland. He said: "I'm excited to play here in England for Sutton Sting. I'm looking forward to the season ahead here with a new bunch of players."

Zimozdra and Glover both said they were delighted to return for another campaign, with Glover adding he was excited for the year ahead: "I'm looking forward to another action packed season with the Sting boys. It will be good to see how we compare with the other teams in the league under our new coach."

Promising defenseman Gamwell has enjoyed a successful time with Sting's U18 team, in addition to icing for the senior team during the past two years.

Darlow expects the youngster to continue his progression this term: "Jake had a great last season with the NIHL1 side as well as playing U18. He’s a great player who will do well under the wing of players such as James Goodman and our other senior defensemen."

Monday, 22 September 2014

UK Ice hockey round-up (w/e 21st September)

Solihull's Niklas Ottosson won MVP at Deeside
The British Challenge Cup was the focus of attention for two NIHL North teams this weekend, with Solway Sharks and Billingham Stars pitting their wits against the EPL's Telford Tigers.

Sharks travelled short-benched to Telford and found themselves on the wrong end of a 13-1 scoreline - Peter Szabo (3), Adam Taylor (2) & Macaulay Heywood (2) led Tigers' scoring.

Stars put up a much better showing on home ice, before Tigers eventually proved too strong as they ran out 5-2 winners. The Teessiders enjoyed better fortunes in Moralee D1, winning 6-2 at Manchester Minotaurs to move to the top of the table - Michael Bowman grabbed two for Stars.

Solihull Barons maintained their 100% Laidler D2 record with a 7-0 win at Deeside Dragons. Sheffield Senators won 10-0 at home to Bradford Bulldogs. Coventry Blaze drew 4-4 with Nottingham Lions and followed up with a 4-3 success at Widnes Wild.

Blackburn Eagles kept up their impressive home form as they won 8-1 against Deeside, but their road woes continued as they fell 7-1 at Hull Jets.

Chelmsford Chieftains began the defence of their NIHL1 South crown with a four-point weekend. Lukas Zatopek's final period goal capped a 4-2 victory at home to Cardiff NIHL1 and they followed up with a 5-1 success against Invicta Dynamos.

Jaroslav Cesky bagged the winner as Wightlink won 3-2 on home ice against MK Thunder, but Raiders couldn't add a second victory as they slipped to a 6-5 loss at Oxford City Stars. Sean Scarborough's decider sealed a 3-2 success for Streatham Redskins against Bracknell Hornets. London Raiders won 4-2 at Solent Devils.

In NIHL2S, Bristol Pitbulls won 9-4 at Basingstoke Buffalo, while Swindon Wildcats triumphed 4-3 at Cardiff NIHL2. Invicta won 12-4 at home to Streatham in the D1 Cup and there were victories for Slough Jets and Peterborough Islanders in the D2 competition.

Basingstoke Bison retained their unbeaten EPL record after winning 3-2 at home to Manchester Phoenix and 3-0 at Peterborough Phantoms. Tom Squires (3) & Jeff Legue (2) led the scoring as Sheffield Steeldogs enjoyed a 6-2 home success against MK Lightning, and Legue added another three to his tally in a 6-4 road win at Manchester.

Guildford Flames won 4-2 at Swindon, but Wildcats gained their revenge by the same scoreline in the reverse fixture. Bracknell Bees had a miserable weekend, losing 2-1 to Peterborough and 3-1 to MK Lightning.

Coventry Blaze still lead the Elite League after a 2-1 victory at Dundee Stars. Belfast Giants won 3-2 at Hull Stingrays, but saw their 100% record disappear as the fell 3-2 at Sheffield Steelers. Cardiff Devils won 5-4 after overtime against Braehead Clan, but failed to follow up as they lost 3-2 after a shoot-out at Edinburgh Capitals.

In the Elite Challenge Cup, Nottingham Panthers won 2-1 against Sheffield. Fife Flyers beat Dundee Stars 4-2, but lost the return game 2-1 after overtime. Coventry won by the odd goal in seven against Nottingham.

(Image permission: Keith & Jenny Davies)

Friday, 19 September 2014

NIHL North weekend preview

Deeside captain Mike Jones (right)
The attention in NIHL North switches to British Challenge Cup action this weekend, with two Moralee D1 teams facing higher league opposition.

Solway Sharks visit Telford Tigers on Saturday, while Billingham Stars welcome the EPL leaders to Teesside on Sunday.

Stars are unbeaten in three league and cup games so far this season, and are billing the clash as their "biggest game for years."

New signing Thomas Stuart-Dant has made a flying start in Stars' colours and he's looking forward to the challenge: "Last weekend was a really good test us - coming out of it with four points was a huge confidence boost for the whole team looking at the weekend to come. Telford are a strong EPL team this season so it's going to be tough, even with them playing by our NIHL rules."

Stuart-Dant joined Stars in the summer after moving north from Sutton Sting and he's settled in quickly: "Things here in Billingham have been pretty easy to adjust to. The people are super friendly and everyone has been more than welcoming to me."

Billingham are also in league action on Saturday as they make the trip to Manchester Minotaurs.

Deeside Dragons face a tricky looking weekend double-header as they bid to bounce back from a miserable start to the Laidler D2 season. On Saturday they travel to Blackburn Eagles, before returning to home ice the following evening to face Solihull Barons.

Ill-discipline has been a problem for Dragons so far this year, something their skipper Mike Jones is keen to see improve: "It's been a tough start to the season so far. Teams are improving, making the league much more competitive.

"We haven't helped ourselves in the first two games by taking far too many silly penalties which has cost us four points. We know what we have to do this weekend to get results against a very good Barons team and an Eagles side who are playing good hockey at the moment."

Much-improved Sheffield Senators face Bradford Bulldogs on Saturday, hoping to build on a solid start to the new campaign. After an opening day victory against Deeside, Senators narrowly lost out to Tigers NIHL before bouncing back to win at Nottingham Lions.

Nathan Britton's late decider sealed the points in Nottingham, but he praised his teammates' contribution: "We've had a great start to the season against three very good teams and we were unlucky to not get a win against Telford.

"Against the Lions we'd been pressing well as a unit all game and rallied together in the period break to get back from two down going into the third, showing a lot of grit and determination. Obviously it felt great to get the winner, but it was a massive team effort.

"Bradford will be a challenge against a team we're not familiar with yet, but we're confident of keeping the momentum going and getting the win in our own barn."

The remaining D2 games see Coventry Blaze face the Lions on Saturday, before travelling to Widnes Wild on Sunday. Hull Jets meet the Eagles the same evening.

(Image permission: PSD-Images)

Monday, 15 September 2014

UK Ice hockey round-up (w/e 14th September)

Thomas Stuart-Dant led the way as Billingham Stars opened their NIHL North Moralee D1 season with a pair of wins.

Stuart-Dant hit a hat-trick in Stars' 7-5 success at Sheffield Spartans and he was on the scoresheet again as the Teessiders won 10-1 at home to Manchester Minotaurs. Luke Brittle scored three in Blackburn Hawks' 8-3 home win against Whitley Warriors.

Solihull Barons are top of Laidler D2 after a 12-6 home win against Blackburn Eagles – Richie Slater (3), Joe Henry (2) & Niklas Ottosson (2) led the scoring.

Telford Tigers NIHL began their league campaign with a 7-5 win at Sheffield Senators. Nottingham Lions won 7-2 at Bradford Bulldogs, but Nathan Britton's late strike condemned them to a 5-4 defeat at home to the Senators. Filip Supa bagged a hat-trick as Widnes Wild triumphed 7-6 at Deeside Dragons. Hull Jets won 4-3 at home to Coventry Blaze.

Solway Sharks claimed their first British Challenge Cup points with a 6-4 home win against the Hawks. Chelmsford Chieftains lost 4-1 at Swindon Wildcats and 5-1 at home to Basingstoke Bison, while Wightlink Raiders fell 7-1 at home to MK Lightning.

Invicta Dynamos kicked of their NIHL1 South season with two wins. Andy Smith scored four in their 9-7 home success against Oxford City Stars, while Juraj Huska grabbed the decider in a 7-6 victory at Bracknell Hornets. Daniel Hughes scored three in Hornets’ 6-5 win at London Raiders.

Cardiff NIHL collected four points with a 5-4 success against Solent Devils and a 7-3 win at Oxford. Jamie Line hit the winner as MK Thunder won 3-2 at Streatham Redskins. In the NIHL1S Cup Wightlink won 8-4 at Solent. Bristol Pitbulls and Slough Jets both collected road wins in the D2 Cup.

EPL title hopefuls Telford Tigers started with a four-point weekend, winning 4-3 at Sheffield Steeldogs and 6-1 at home to Bracknell Bees. Manchester Phoenix won 3-1 at Bracknell, but failed to follow up as they lost 4-3 after a shoot-out at home to Swindon.

Joe Greener hit a hat-trick as Basingstoke won 6-4 at home to Peterborough, but the Phantoms recovered with a 5-3 success against the Steeldogs. Guildford Flames eased to a 5-3 win at home to MK Lightning.

Coventry Blaze are the early pacesetters in the Elite League after claiming their third successive win with a 4-0 success at home to Dundee Stars. Sheffield Steelers opened their campaign with a 5-4 shoot-out win at Fife Flyers and an 8-1 victory in the reverse fixture.

Belfast Giants won 8-2 at home to Edinburgh, but the Capitals bounced back with a 5-2 success at Hull Stingrays. Nottingham Panthers secured a 3-1 home win against Cardiff Devils, while Dundee Stars lost 5-4 after overtime at home to Hull.

Braehead Clan maintained their 100% Elite Challenge Cup record with a 4-3 overtime win at Belfast and a 3-0 success at Edinburgh. Cardiff won 4-3 at home to Coventry.

(Image permission: Dean Reeve)

Friday, 12 September 2014

NIHL North weekend preview

 Spartans' captain Ollie Barron
Sheffield Spartans get their NIHL North Moralee D1 season underway on Saturday as they host Billingham Stars.

Spartans narrowly missed out on a play-off slot last term, but have strengthened their roster this summer.

Shaun Wild & Elliot Knell return after spells in NIHLS, while Chris Wilcox is back after a spell away from the game. Utility player Andrew Turner has also rejoined after a year out.

Ollie Barron is excited for the season ahead: "We've been training hard in preparation for our opening game. Billingham will be a good first test for us as they're always a well-drilled team with some standout individuals - but so do we.

"We have the belief we can beat anyone in this league as we proved last season, and we'll play hard for 60 minutes every week. Our overall aim is to achieve a play-off spot, something I think we should have secured last season."

Whitley Warriors begin their league campaign on Sunday as they travel to Blackburn Hawks. Warriors finished fourth last year and are looking to improve on that this year. Forward Adam Reynolds said: "It'll be a tough test against Blackburn, but we've strengthened in the summer and had a good pre-season. We're feeling confident and hope to get off to a good start.

"Warriors are the only team in the top four without financial backing and we're always up there, so there's no reason why we can't challenge. Personally I hope to have a good season. There's a few new faces in the league to overtake me in the scoring charts, but I'll be giving it my best shot."

The remaining D1 fixture is also on Sunday as Billingham face-off against Manchester Minotaurs.

In Laidler D2, Sheffield Senators aim to build on last week's impressive start as they face Telford Tigers NIHL & Nottingham Lions. Tom Humphries grabbed a late winner to seal a 2-1 success at Deeside Dragons and Coach Andy Ellis was pleased with the performance.

Senators' forward Tom Humphries
"Deeside are a tough team to take points off, especially on home ice," said Ellis. "The biggest plus for me was the character we showed to come from behind and go on to pinch both points in the final three minutes.

"This weekend we face a difficult double-header. Telford are a new team, but they'll be well-drilled with Scott McKenzie and Tom Watkins overseeing things down there.

"They've some excellent senior players and lots of youngsters hungry to make an impression. We'll need to battle for the full 60 minutes and take our chances when they come in order to give ourselves an opportunity to win.

"On Sunday we travel to Nottingham, who'll no doubt be fired up after their shock defeat to the Eagles last week. We've never won down there, but this year we have more firepower and will have a much better chance of coming away with the win."

Nottingham are also in action on Saturday at Bradford Bulldogs. Sunday's games see Hull Jets face Coventry Blaze, Solihull Barons are at home to Blackburn Eagles and Deeside meet Widnes Wild.

Solway Sharks are in British Challenge Cup action on Saturday as they welcome the Hawks to Dumfries. Sharks suffered a miserable first week with two defeats and Coach Martin Grubb is looking for an immediate response:

"Last weekend was disappointing and something we need to bounce back from. We haven't had too many disappointments in recent seasons, but we're a much changed team and need to regroup to be ready for this weekend.

"We're still trying to strengthen our squad, but we're finding it tough to recruit. I'm very pleased with the way our kids have stepped up and hopefully we can add some real extra quality soon.

"We've worked hard at practice this week and need to kick-start our season on Saturday. We know it won't be easy against Blackburn, but we need to focus solely on ourselves and get the job done to gain some confidence."

Image permissions: Ollie Barron - Rob Hutchinson; Tom Humphries - Gav Rawson)

'Adz' bolsters Lions backline

Coach Paul Glossop welcomes Andrews
Nottingham Lions have strengthened their NIHL North Laidler D2 roster, with the signing of defenseman Adam Andrews.

The 33-year-old brings 12 seasons of senior hockey to the Lions' blueline, with his career spanning every level of professional and semi-professional hockey in the UK.

Andrews' career began in Swindon in 1999, but most recently he's played for two of Lions' main rivals, Solihull Barons and Coventry Blaze.

'Adz' has made a name for himself in the Midlands as a no-nonsense, playmaking defenseman, bagging 74 points in 91 NIHL North games and going on to captain the Laidler All-Star team at the end of last season.

Alongside captain Luke Thomas, Andrews will be on hand to provide veteran leadership and guidance to the junior members of the defensive core, several of whom are entering their first senior campaigns and, with the Swindon native's playmaking ability, he adds flexibility to both the defence and special teams that will be crucial entering the new campaign.

Andrews said he was delighted to finalise his move to the National Ice Centre: "I'm looking forward to working under Matt and the rest of the coaching team - the club has some promising young kids coming through with a good mix of seniors. I'll get my head down and let my hockey do the talking. I can play with no pressure on my shoulders and enjoy myself."

Lions finished fourth last term and began this season with a narrow defeat at Blackburn Eagles, but Andrews believes they can challenge for silverware.

"If you go into the season thinking you'll just make up the numbers you're mentally setting your mind to fail. A wise person once said 'if you always did what you always done, you will always get what you always got'. Take that how you like, but times are changing in Nottingham with the development being around youth. If I can have a hand in that – great.

"At 33 the easiest answer would be to say ‘I feel old’, but it's not the case - you’re only as old as you feel and the younger guys bring a tempo that without knowing it is helping us old dogs keep pace and our fitness levels high. The more senior guys will be adding the final touches that the kids haven't developed yet - it's a great balance that everyone benefits from."

Lions' Head Coach Matt Bradbury commented: "Adz has a wealth of experience and many attributes that will help the team. He's strong and composed on the puck, sees the ice well and most importantly he's here with us to play and enjoy his hockey and do whatever is asked of him.

"We've had a very honest conversation as to how we see him fitting into the programme and we believe he'll complement our back line giving us further depth, as well as another good shot from the point.

"I'm quite sure he'll be keen to help his team mates out, both on and off the ice, and the entire coaching team look forward to him joining our ranks. He has a lot to prove to people and we hope that playing for the Lions will assist in proving a lot of people wrong and putting a few records straight."

Andrews is expected to make debut on Saturday at Bradford Bulldogs. The following evening Lions begin their home campaign against local rivals Sheffield Senators.

(Image permission: Nottingham Lions)

Barons add Swedish flair

Solihull Barons hopes of winning NIHL North Laidler D2 this season received a major boost last weekend, with the confirmation of the signing of Niklas Ottosson.

The Swedish forward's addition to the Barons roster was announced a few hours before their demolition of Widnes Wild. Ottosson enjoyed an impressive debut, grabbing three assists in Barons' 10-1 romp.

Ottosson is a product of the HC Vita Hästen junior system, going on to make his senior Division 1 debut in 2009/10. He played over 100 games before switching to Lindlövens IF in 2012. Ottosson enjoyed an excellent season, scoring 22 goals with 28 assists in 40 games.

He returned to HC Vita Hästen in 2013/14 and helped the team gain promotion to the Allsvenskan – the second tier of the sport in Sweden.

Ottosson explained how he arrived in NIHL North: "I've thought about playing abroad for a couple of years and last season got into a relationship with a girl from England. After some discussions about where we wanted to live, and because I didn't find a good solution with my old team, we ended up here.

"I wanted to try something new and I thought it was a good time to do it now. I had a try-out with Telford Tigers earlier this summer, but they didn't have an import slot left for me. My girlfriend lives in Solihull, so that's how I ended up with the Barons. I've only played one game and had a couple of practices with Solihull so far.

"I played in Vita Hästen last season in the Swedish Division 1, which is the third best league in Sweden. We got promoted to the second league last season, which was absolutely great to be a part of and I hope the best for them this coming season."

Ottosson admitted he was disappointed not to sign in the EPL, but was full of praise for the welcome he received at Solihull: "I do think they are a good team and should be in a higher level. The boys and staff are great and they took good care of me when I came - I really appreciate that."

The Swede makes his home debut on Sunday as Barons face Blackburn Eagles at Hobs Moat Road.

(Image permission: Keith & Jenny Davies)

Thursday, 11 September 2014

New Star Sykes seeks success

Billingham Stars' signing of Chris Sykes earlier this summer was a big statement of intent for a club who have gone two NIHL North seasons without silverware.

Sykes enjoyed a productive 18 month spell with Sutton Sting as they established themselves in the upper reaches of Moralee D1, but when Stars came calling he decided to make the switch to Teesside.

Sykes brings a wealth of higher league experience to Stars' roster, having previously iced in the Elite League for Hull Stingrays and Sheffield Steeldogs in the EPL. He began his Stars career with a hat-trick in a pre-season friendly against Aberdeen Lynx, before picking up the MVP award in their 5-2 British Challenge Cup win at Solway Sharks last weekend.

"Joining Stars has been a great move for me so far," said Sykes. "I'm enjoying my time here and enjoying the hockey. The players and backroom staff are great – it really is a well-oiled Big Red Machine!

"I've joined Stars to win trophies and to start off by beating last year's league winners in their own barn is somewhat of a head turner. I was delighted to come away with the MVP award – I don't get it often so it was nice to win it. Solway didn't look like the team they had last year, however I'm sure they will bounce back."

This weekend Stars get their league campaign underway as they head to Sykes' hometown of Sheffield to take on the Spartans, and he's expecting a tough encounter: "They're always are a well-drilled team and always play hard. They have a grind it out attitude and it's a place you know you'll always get a game.

"You don't walk away easily with two points, but we'll turn up with our game plan and take it to them. It'll be a battle, but if everything goes our way we're good enough to get the win."

Stars return to home ice on Sunday as they face Manchester Minotaurs. The Altrincham based outfit lost 11-3 to Blackburn Hawks last week, but Sykes said Stars won't underestimate their opponents: "They were a bit of a surprise package last year they had Lukas Zeman, but this year they don't look as though they have the same firepower.

"However, we'll never take any team lightly. We'll play our normal game and hopefully make it a four-point weekend. We've set ourselves a few long term goals and I have a few personal targets of my own, which hopefully if I achieve will make for a great season."

(Image permission: Dean Reeve)