BLACKBURN Hawks failed to get the new English National Ice Hockey League season off to a winning start – but showed plenty of promise in their opening encounter.

Hawks slipped to a narrow 4-3 defeat against the newly reformed Billingham Stars in front of over 600 expectant fans at the Blackburn Arena.

The hosts couldn’t have got off to a worse start, as the Stars immediately gained possession and Richie Thornton produced a fine finish with just 12 seconds on the clock.

Head coach Jared Owen netted a deserved equaliser with a sublime first-time flick four minutes into the second period, before debutant Jordan Bannon bagged his first goal for the club, as Hawks took the lead.

Billingham levelled the scores with a speculative shot on a rare foray forward, before regaining their lead just two minutes later.

The final 20 minutes promised to be a tense affair, with Hawks pouring forward in search on an equaliser.

But on 47 minutes, the visitors extended their advantage, as a stinging shot across Danny Brittle just found the inside of the far post.

With just three minutes remaining, a two-man powerplay gave Hawks a glimmer of hope, and the returning Craig Rogers ensured a frantic finale when he managed to pull a goal back.

However, it was too late for Hawks to create any further chances, as the clock wound down, much to the relief of the Stars and their travelling supporters.

Manager Graham Lomax said: “We were all bitterly disappointed with the result, as we have put a lot of work both on and off the ice into building the team for this season.

“But it’s still very, very early days and we’ve come up against what we believe will be one of the top teams in the division this year.

“We didn’t play well, but we did create a lot of chances. It was just a combination of good netminding and poor finishing on our part that has cost us. On another day, we could have run out as comfortable winners.

“We haven’t had the chance to play any pre-season friendlies, so we are a little bit short of match fitness, but I’m confident it will all come together soon.”