Hull Pirates urged to lay down marker as they remain on playoff collision course with Sheffield Steeldogs

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MATTY DAVIES believes Hull Pirates should look to make a big statement next season once the newly-formed National League gets underway.

The East Yorkshire club are one of 10 teams granted membership of the new second-tier of British hockey, with Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Steeldogs and a brand new franchise out of the new rink in Leeds also included.

Last week saw Hull clinch the regular season North One Conference title with an 8-3 win over the Steeldogs in Sheffield, bringing down the curtain on a campaign which had seen the two Yorkshire clubs go neck-and-neck with Telford Tigers.

But aside from that top three, it was difficult to find competitive games, bringing about the need for a new league combining the strongest teams from the North and South Conferences.

And Davies believes the new structure will only benefit hockey in the UK long-term.

“The sport as a whole needs this new league,” said Davies. “This has obviously been a stop-gap, but everybody knows it hasn’t really worked and that the disparity between teams in the top half and bottom half is just too big.

“But it will be a very competitive league next year and I’m excited to be in it. We’ve got a good core of guys here and, hopefully, we can keep all of us together.

“And while we’ve been the top team in the north league this season, we’ve got to kick on next year and try to make a big statement and I feel we’ve got every chance of doing so.”

As if to emphasise the disparity between teams at either end of the standings, Hull cruised into the second round of the playoffs on the back of a 29-4 aggregate win over Sutton Sting.

Hat-tricks for player-coach Jason Hewitt and Lubomir Korhon fuelled a 14-1 home win on Saturday before four more for Hewitt saw the Pirates win 15-3 in Sunday night’s return leg.

The Steeldogs also eased through, beating Blackburn Hawks 13-6 on aggregate.

Duncan Speirs and Nathan Salem grabbed two apiece in a 7-2 win on home ice on Saturday before, 24 hours later, James Spurr and Alex Graham hit doubles in a 6-4 win in Lancashire.

Hull will now face Whitley Warriors - surprise victors over two legs against Solway Sharks - while Sheffield will take on Telford, who recovered from a 7-5 first leg defeat at Solihull Barons by winning 8-0 in the home leg on Sunday.