HAWKS coach Matt Darlow is backing his defence to play a huge part in any success this season after praising their level of sacrifice for the cause.

Darlow’s side travel to free-scoring title favourites Solway Sharks tonight (7pm) aiming to make it three wins out of four.

But they will meet a team full of confidence at Dumfries Ice Bowl, with Martin Grubb’s men boasting a 100 per cent record and having scored 13 goals in their last two matches.

Darlow, who should have more options available to him after making do with only 12 players for last weekend’s double header, said: “We know what Solway are about. Realistically they are the favourites for everything this year.

“If you look on paper, they’ve recruited very wisely and within a good budget as well.

“People talk about our budget in Blackburn, but we’re fifth or sixth in the league when it comes to budget.

“If we finish above fifth or sixth in the table we’re punching above where we should be.

“We’ll look to take three lines and should have a couple back (from injury) and a couple of juniors available to us.

“We should look to go there with lots of energy - it’s one game.”

Solway will go into the match as favourites, especially on home ice, but Darlow says while they have plenty of threat going forward, his team’s willingness to put their bodies on the line in defence could be a key feature.

He added: “Offensively they are always going to be a good unit, but our guys are willing to sacrifice - really sacrifice for each other.

“We’ve seen that with the amount of shot blocks and guys throwing themselves in front of the puck already and we’re only three games in.

“We know as the season gets older that sacrifice won’t diminish, it will just get greater.

“Other teams better be willing to sacrifice at the rate we are - blocking shots and taking hits for the team. Because if they’re not, we’ll wake them up.”

Darlow admits there is talent throughout the Sharks squad, but singled out a young player he tried to bring to Blackburn and a couple of familiar faces too.

He said: “They’ve got two Hawks from last season, Kim Miettinen and Rick Bentham, plus Duncan Spiers Jnr who I tried to bring to Blackburn and who has made Great Britain this year. He’s an outstanding young talent.”

Hawks had a mixed bag of results last weekend, beating Whitely Warriors 2-1 at the Arena on Saturday, before going down 3-2 at Billingham 24 hours later.

And the coach said that slow starts and ‘ridiculous penalties’ saw them make life difficult for themselves in both encounters.

“Whitley started well and we were slack for the first period, probably the most disjointed we’ve looked, although with different lines and players missing,” he said.

“We looked pretty loose and we got punished for it.

“Again, we didn’t start well at Billingham. There was poor decision making by two of three players that cost us - ridiculous penalties at ridiculous times and in ridiculous situations.

“That’s something we’re not going to allow going forward. We’ve got to have better brains than that.

“The big positive for me is that when we’ve played five on five we’ve been dominant against most teams.

“But silly penalties catch you and your momentum’s gone.”