Sutton Sting take on Manchester Minotaurs in ice hockey’s NIHL Moralee Conference at iceSheffield on Saturday (4.30pm) with more than a few injury worries.
In their first two games of the season just over a week ago they were missing first four and then six of the squad.
Coach Matt Darlow has his work cut out and, explaining the unfortunate situation, he said: “It’s tough to go into a season with little pressure on us knowing we have a squad capable of upsetting other teams and then lose four guys before a puck is even dropped, only to lose two more followed by another two just this week - that’s half our main roster gone.
“It certainly gave one of our prospect guys Joe Cross a baptism of fire, playing in the cauldron of Whitley Bay, and allowed Shiney Lingwood regular ice also, which they used well and it was good to see.
“But with even just a couple more guys we’d have been looking at a four point opening weekend of the season instead of the single point we came away with. It’s frustrating in such a short 24-game season as that could cost us later.”
Coming off a strong two periods against Solway Sharks, the Minotaurs will be in buoyant mood and Sutton Sting captain James Goodman warned his team against complacency.
He said: “There are no easy games in this league and, although we go into this weekend confident in our ability to beat Manchester, we have to play at a high level for 60 minutes to take the points we want.
“More than any season before, we have to take points early and establish a foothold in the league so we can push for the play-off position we know we can achieve as a unit.”
With no senior game last weekend it was left to the junior teams to fly the Sting flag across the country with four of the sides in action.
In U18 Division Two, Sutton won their first league game of the season 4-1 against Sheffield.
Sting finished last season in third place behind Sheffield, who were second, and so the first contest of the new season was a great opportunity for new U18s coach, Ian Johnson, to see how his kids were going to fare.
A tight opening period was drawn 1-1, Elliott Meadows with Sutton’s equaliser.
At the start of a scoreless second period it was Sheffield who created some great chances, only to be thwarted by man of the match Dom Walsham between the pipes for the Sting in his first competitive ice hockey match.
Joe Cross and a Brady Doxy double then won it for Sting in the final period.
In U14 Division Two, Sting lost a shoot-out 16-7 at Whitley Bay.
Sting had to make a 7am start for the long journey up to Whitley Bay for a 12.30pm face-off.
Whitley Bay, starting their first game in Division Two following relegation at the end of last season had the prodigious talent of England hotshot forward Jamie Ord on their roster, and he did not disappoint the home crowd, scoring 15 of his team’s16 goals and assisting the other.
But the Sting were icing some brand new players and, while the scoreline flattered Whitley, the Sting’s development model also proved to be hugely successful as Jayden Garcin, playing in his second season, managed to score four times.
Making the short trip down the A60 to the National Ice Centre in Nottingham on Sunday afternoon the Sting were expecting a tight game against Nottingham in U16 Division Two, and so it proved as the game ended 5-5.
Nottingham struck first as they caught the Sting napping and the game opened-up into a hard fought contest.
The Sting struck back with two goals in quick succession from Ryan Apsley.
Moments later Nottingham equalised. Sutton led the game three more times with Nottingham equalising to keep the Sting in touching distance and by the end of regulation time it was 5-5 with Ryan Apsley netting all of Sutton’s goals.
Man of the Match for Sutton was Sam Oliver, making his Sting debut in his first competitive game of hockey.