BLACKBURN Hawks have confirmed they will launch a development side for the 2017-18 campaign.

The new squad, branded as an Under-25 team, will compete in the NIHL Laidler Conference, a level below the Hawks, with the aim of bringing players through from the junior ranks in to the senior set-up.

A statement on the Hawks website said: "This U25s team will compete in the Laidler Conference and give the opportunity for young players within the region to continue their development past the already established U20s side, with the ultimate goal of creating excellent quality players for the senior Hawks team and beyond.

“This new team gives the organisation a fantastic development platform for any young player wanting to develop in the sport of Ice Hockey.

"It also gives us an excellent opportunity to blood young emerging talent from our junior ranks within the senior hockey game to get them ready for the senior Hawks side sooner.

"We are all very excited about this team and the benefits it will bring to our players.”

Blackburn had a side competing in the Laidler Conference last season with Blackburn Eagles winning the league title before losing in the play-offs.

That club folded at the end of the campaign citing increased financial costs and the banning of their main sponsor from Blackburn Arena as the reasons behind the decision.

On the back of that decision management at Blackburn Arena and the rink owners Silverblades said they remained open to the Eagles continuing to play out of the town but no deal was struck.

It means the newly-former Blackburn side will take their place in the Laidler Conference next season with the Hawks in the Moralee Conference.

Both division have 10 sides for next year with clubs playing each other home and away twice for a 36-game season.

Moralee Conference clubs: Billingham Stars, Blackburn Hawks, Deeside Dragons, Hull Pirates, Nottingham Lions, Sheffield Steeldogs, Solihull Barons, Solway Sharks, Telford, Whitley Warriors

Laidler Conference clubs: Altrincham Aces, Blackburn 2, Bradford Bulldogs, Coventry Blaze, Deeside 2, Hull Jets, Sheffield Senators, Sutton Sting, Telford 2, Widnes Wild