Murrayfield Racers will have to ‘step it up’ for first-ever NIHL match

Racers netminder Mark McGill Covers the puck against Ayr Wild last week. Pic: Ian Coyle
Racers netminder Mark McGill Covers the puck against Ayr Wild last week. Pic: Ian Coyle
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Murrayfield Racers will play their first-ever game in the National Ice Hockey League North Cup on Sunday, travelling to take on Billingham Stars in the round-robin format, UK-wide tournament.

And head coach Tony Hand is excited to see how his players cope with “stepping up a level”, after the brand new Murrayfield club opened up their Scottish National League campaign with a home win over North Ayrshire Wild last time out.

Hand admitted: “We’re under no illusions how tough it’s going to be against these NIHL teams. We’ve got the likes of (last season’s champions) Sheffield, Hull and Telford ahead of us. Billingham are a team with a lot of good players.

“We’re improving all the time but we’ve only been together as a team for a couple of weeks. We’re looking to give them a good game, and hopefully along the way give one or two of them a fright.

“It’s a step up level wise to what many of our guys are used to, but that’s one of the reasons we entered this competition. We’re a brand new club and everything is a building process for us as we look to improve both on and off the ice.”

Billingham, who are based in County Durham, finished eighth out of ten teams in the NIHL Northern Conference last season, the lowest ranked of the five semi-professional teams Racers will face both home and away in the group stages of the season-long competition.

Hand continued: “Playing these games will be great for our guys and give them something different to what they are used to. To improve as a player you need to be pushed and if we didn’t do things like this for them we wouldn’t be doing our job.”