Weekend Review: Hull Pirates and Sheffield Steeldogs off to perfect NIHL start

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IT proved to be an ideal opening weekend for both Sheffield Steeldogs and Hull Pirates as they got their Moralee North 1 campaigns underway with maximum returns.

Ben Morgan's Steeldogs, defending regular season champions, opened up by following a tight 4-3 win on the road at Billingham Stars with an 11-0 thrashing of Nottingham Lions.

Jason Hewitt's Pirates, meanwhile, sent a signal of their intent to be in the mix for honours once again when they beat visitors Whitley Warriors 8-1 before hitting the road to see off hosts Blackburn hawks 5-1 on Sunday night.

It was former Sheffield Steelers and GB forward Hewitt himself who led by example for the East Yorkshire outfit, enjoying a five-goal weekend which begin with a hat-trick against the Warriors. Hewitt grabbed his first in the 34th minute, making it 3-1 on the night after earlier strikes from James Archer and Matt Davies had sandwiched a reply from Whitley's Ben Campbell.

Hewitt made it 4-1 just before the end of the second before a Lee Bonner double, a third for the player-coach and George Crawshw's 58th minute strike completed a comfortable win.

A three-goal first period did the damage in Blackburn 24 hours later, Hewitt getting his side off the mark in the eighth minute before Archer and Aaron Lyon added to the tally.

James Riddoch pulled one back for the hosts in the second period, but further strikes from Jordan Fisher and Hewitt ensured a four-point weekend.

It was a tougher proposition for defending champions Sheffield in Billingham on Saturday, the game nip and tuck until just after the halfway mark when two goals in four minutes gave the visitors a lead they never relinquished.

Falling behind to a first-minute Jack Davies goal, Nathan Salem equalised on the power play seven minutes later before player-coach Morgan made it 2-1 on the man advantage in the 26th minute.

Billingham came back to level through a power play strike of their own by Michael Elder at the halfway point before the visitors took control thanks to Ashley Calvert's strike three minutes later, the advantage doubling to 4-2 when Andrew Hirst fired home on the power play at 35.12. James Moss made it a one-goal game again at 48.47 but the Steeldogs hung on for an opening night triumph.

In Nottingham the following day, the Steeldogs enjoyed a far more comfortable time, Duncan Speirs proving the star of the show with a four-goal haul, with Calvert weighing in with a hat-trick of his own. Further goals came from Milan Kolena, Adrian Palak, Liam Charnock and Charles Thompson.