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Ice hockey: Revived Deeside Dragons begin their bid for promotion this weekend

REVIVED ice hockey side Deeside Dragons begin life in the National League among the favourites for promotion after a summer of exciting signings.

Since player-coach Steve Fellows took the helm in the off-season, Flintshire Freeze have disposed of their name to adopt the moniker of the region’s original ice hockey – and a lot has happened since then.

The ice rink at Deeside Leisure Centre has been re-branded the Dragons’ Den and a raft of players has been brought in from higher divisions to create a strong squad that Fellows expects to compete for promotion from National League North Two.

The most recent addition has been Shaun Kippin, who signed from NIHL North One side Whitley Bay Warriors. Work is bringing him from the North East of England to the North West and Fellows managed to convince him that despite other offers with bigger financial rewards, Deeside was the place to be.

“Shaun is a player who was in great demand from teams in North One,” said Fellows.

“He had other offers on the table when he came to see us but we put him up at St David’s Park Hotel in Ewloe and showed him the rink and the area and we convinced him that this should be his home.”

Kippin is not the only player from a higher league to sign for the Dragons. They also have former Blackburn Hawks scorer Ric Hughes and his ex-Hawks teammates Aaron Davies, Tom King and Brian Worrall, all from North One.

Enforcer Dave Costelloe returns to the fold and there are a few familiar faces from last season’s Freeze side too.

The Dragons begin their campaign on Saturday as they travel to face Blackburn Eagles before hosting Hull Stingrays at the Dragons’ Den on Sunday (6.30pm).

Fellows is confident in his side and believes it is stronger than any of the Freeze teams of recent years.

“The last few years saw the Freeze finishing just outside the promotion places in North Two,” said Fellows.

“But with the set-up we have, the support we have and the players we have we should be competing near the top of North One.”

That being said, North Two is a tough league this year. Relegated into it were Nottingham and Solihull Barons and the latter are led by Canadian Chris Allen, who had two spells with the Florida Panthers in America’s NHL.

“I think it is likely to be between us and Solihull this season,” said Fellows. “They will be a strong outfit but I believe that our squad is one of the strongest we have ever assembled and we can win promotion.”