BLACKBURN Hawks coach Dan MacKriel has backed his squad to cope with the departure of star man RJay Berra.

The Canadian import signed for Elite League side Edinburgh Capital this week, having netted 67 points in 25 games for the Hawks, who top the Moralee Conference.

The Capitals declared their interest in Berra on deadline day for Moralee Conference sides, and while the Hawks managed to delay the move for a week, they have now allowed Berra to make the step up.

But it has meant the deal has come too late for them to strengthen their own ranks as they look to hold off the challenge of Whitley Warriors to claim a second successive league title.

"It's a big loss, he scored a lot of points for us, in that respect the return he produced was good number, that is what we expected from bringing him in," said MacKriel.

"But we still think we've got players on our team who can produce and we've got full confidence in them. One player doesn't make the team."

Berra was full of praise for the Hawks set-up following his departure, and backed them to win the treble of league, cup and play-offs.

"It means you're doing something right," said MacKriel. "That's the culture at Blackburn and the people around, they put a lot of time in behind the scenes.

"When you sign players you're making sure they fit in the dressing room and know what their personality is like.

"It's the people behind the scenes really. He got sponsored in terms of equipment, the people who housed him, Brian and Jean, were absolutely golden to him.

"The lads really took to him, so in that case it wasn't just a player, they'd made a friendship there.

"We wish him the best but our season goes on now and we've got work harder to do the business on the ice."

The Hawks begin life without Berra at Sutton Sting on Sunday (4.15pm).

MacKriel's side have beaten the Sting 5-0 and 13-1 at home, but drew 2-2 on their previous visit away earlier in the season.

"They're a good team, they're well drilled and have probably one of the best goalies in the league," he said.

"We've beaten them twice at home but drew down at their place, but we didn't play particularly well that day.

"We want to move forward and make sure we do the simple things but do them well."

The Hawks are seven points clear at the top with five games to play, but the Warriors have two games in hand which could close the gap to just three points.

Yet MacKriel knows five victories would seal the title.

"Everything is on our hands, we know that. Every game is going to be tough from here on in," he said.

"All the teams we've got to play are vying for a play-off spot so they will all be tough.

"It's not going to be a walk in the park. We'll have to work hard in every game, but if we play how we can play night in night out we think we'll be where we want to be."