The 2014/15 NIHL One ice hockey season will finally get under way for Sutton Sting this weekend after a long summer of rebuilding.
As a team in transition it is important for head coach Matt Darlow and his team to test themselves early against two very talented sides in title favourites Blackburn Hawks (Saturday, home) and title contenders Whitley Warriors (Sunday, away).
Darlow is upbeat about the weekend games, saying “Our guys have prepared well to take on the challenge of this season with a real focus on team development and, while others may worry about beginning a campaign against two of the top teams in the division, 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 is 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 team we are full of guys who will 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 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.”
When asked about Sting’s aspirations for the 2014/15 season, Darlow was equally philosophical in saying: “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 the Sutton Sting younger guys to the life of an NIHL One 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.”
Sting have this week unveiled new import signing Ivo Celar, who last season played in Slovak One league for MšHK Bulldogs Prievidza.
Darlow said; “Ivo brings a lot of power, speed and strength here to our game at Sutton and is going to be a big part of our game here, Ivo is an excellent player and I am happy to have him within the team.
“Ivo added ‘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.”
Sting have also signed a two-way deal with Bradford NIHL Two player Reece Cairney-Witter.
He said: “I am happy to be able to be on a two way with the Sting and Bradford.
“It will give me the chance to see games from both leagues and make some new memories on the ice with the Sting.”
Also confirmed as returning this week are Scott Glover, Shannon Lingwood, Richie Oliver, Ryan Johnson and the outstanding netminder Dimitri Zimozdra.