BLACKBURN Hawks head coach Dan MacKriel has told his table-toppers to look forward as they enter 2016.

The previous 12 months were memorable for the Hawks who swept all before them as they ended the 2014/15 Moralee Conference season unbeaten and completed the double with play-off success.

MacKriel’s side begin the New Year top of the table again as they protect a three-point lead from Whitley Warriors.

The Hawks also have a game in hand on the Warriors, who are the only team to have beaten them in the last two seasons.

“It has been a great year but it’s all about looking forward now, that’s where our minds are,” said MacKriel, who took over from Jared Owen at the end of the 2014/15 season.

“We know we’ve got some big challenges still to come and some really big games coming up. We need to be focused on this now rather than looking back at what we’ve achieved.

“It’s about what we can achieve and looking forward.”

The Hawks lost top spot in the Moralee Conference after their defeat to the Warriors, but they have responded well with four wins a draw since, with one of the wins coming against Whitley and also another drew with the side who sit second in the table.

That run of form has seen MacKriel’s side take top spot back in time for the festive period.

“It’s great to end the year top of the league but ultimately the aim is to be top of the league at the end of the season,” he said.

“It’s a step in the right direction. To be top at Christmas was nice as well.”

The Hawks finished the year with a 5-2 win at Solihull Barons on Sunday, but it was a far from straightforward success.

They went into the game having not trained in the week due to their training day falling on Christmas Eve, then had a nightmare journey to the Midlands.

“The boys set off at 1pm and were due to get there for 4pm, but in the end they arrived at just gone 6pm,” said MacKriel.

“They had a five-hour journey so we had to quickly jump straight on the ice for a quick warm-up and then straight into the game, so it wasn’t ideal preparation.

“I thought we controlled the game. The boys came with the right mindset. Going a goal down we showed character to come back but we dominated the game really.

“Solihull are a good team as well, it’s always difficult in their rink, so to come away with the two points and the way we controlled the game considering the journey we had and the fact we hadn’t trained was really pleasing.”

They will begin 2016 with a clash against Sutton Sting at Blackburn Ice Area tomorrow (5.45 face-off), and MacKriel feels the Hawks owe them one after a 2-2 draw away from home earlier this season.

“Sutton are another well-drilled team,” he said. “We’ve got a big challenge ahead of us and it should be a really good game.

“If we’re firing on all cylinders and we’re performing for three periods I feel like we’ll come away with the result.

“It feels like we owe them after that draw. We were the better team but we didn’t take our chances. We’ve got to grit our teeth and get the basics right and really show them what we’re capable of.”