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Ice hockey: Flintshire Freeze endure tough pre-season tournament as coaches build for the future

FLINTSHIRE Freeze suffered a difficult weekend as the new-look Northern League faced-off at Newcastle’s Metro Radio Arena.

The first test of the season for the Freeze was the tournament to launch the Northern League.

On top of the Freeze’s ENL fixtures they will play Division One sides Northern All Stars (formerly Newcastle Vipers), Whitley Bay, Sheffield and Blackburn, Bradford from their own division and Fife and Solway from Scotland.

The Flintshire outfit took a small squad to the event, which had no bearing on the standings, and they beat Blackburn 3-1 before losing 7-0 to Solway and 8-1 to perennial rivals Whitley Bay.

The club is still rebuilding after bidding farewell to some of their most influential players from last season having just missing out on the English National League Division Two title.

New coaches Phil Kennedy and Marc Lovell will have to operate without goaltender Matty Compton, enforcer Dave Costello and Pete Founds due to various work and family commitments.

The Freeze have also lost the services of Dave Clancy and Rick Ravey, who have signed for Blackburn Hawks while Steve Elliot will be unavailable.

The new coaches have begun rebuilding around those players who remain with the squad in an attempt to retain some of the camaraderie and confidence that spearheaded the Freeze’s title tilt.

Netminder Graeme Bird returns to Deeside Ice Rink from the North London Hounds in ENL South Division One and Si Furnival and Mike Jones have also joined from the recreational team North West Metros.

The pair have stood out and will now test themselves in competitive hockey.

ENL Division Two will see two new teams – Kingston Jets relegated from Division One and newly formed Sheffield Senators replace Grimsby Redwings.

The Freeze’s regular season begins on Saturday as they travel to face Lancashire Raptors before welcoming Blackburn Hawks to the Deeside Ice Rink on Sunday (face-off 6.40pm).