Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Stars Facing Tough Start in Revamped League

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Stars Facing Tough Start in Revamped League

Article excerpt

Byline: CAROL WHITE

BILLINGHAM Stars get their campaign under way in earnest this weekend with a home tie against Welsh outfit The Dragons this afternoon followed by a trip over the Pennines to face old rivals Blackburn Hawks tomorrow evening. The restructuring of the National Ice Hockey League has brought big changes off the ice for Flintshire side The Dragons who will now ice two teams - one in each Conference.

The Moralee Division 1 outfit facing the Stars will be coached once again by last season's leading pointsscorer Scott McKenzie, his contribution going a long way to ensuring his side's survival at the end of the last campaign as they squeaked past local rivals Widnes Wild in a promotion/relegation play-off.

New faces in the Dragons camp includes French import Mickael Brodin, Steven Hetherington and Craig Lutkevitch, while Chris Jones and Brian Worrall make welcome returns. Also back in a Dragons jersey is Owen Bennett, a chippy forward well known to Stars new boy Callum Pattison as previous tussles would testify.

Blackburn Hawks will similarly be icing two sides this season, a move facilitated by the demise of reigning Laidler Conference champions Blackburn Eagles.

The Hawks began the summer at a canter, signing top quality defencemen in Luke Boothroyd and James Neil, plus netminder Stephen Fone.

That momentum tapered off somewhat and Blackburn start their season looking a little light on numbers, especially up front.

Slovakian import Jozef Itocy has recently returned to the club, but as yet no second import has been added and their small squad appeared to be exposed by heavy defeats to Moralee rivals Solihull Barons in two challenge games last weekend.

Ultimate-Windows sponsored Billingham suffered themselves in their two warm-up challenge matches as Telford Tigers slotted 14 goals past them.

However with the coaching team deciding to roll with four lines and give every player plenty of ice time in order to evaluate new faces and systems, the weekend results were perhaps to be expected when faced with one of the strongest of the 'new' teams in the revamped League. …

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