BLACKBURN Hawks coach Dan MacKriel praised the character of his team as they head to Scotland tonight on the back of a perfect weekend that has extended their lead at the top of the Moralee Conference to nine points.

Last weekend saw the Hawks show both sides of their game, thrashing Sheffield Spartans 15-2 on the Saturday, before coming from 3-1 down to beat closest challengers Whitley Warriors 4-3 on the Sunday.

Today they face Solway Sharks, champions in 2013 and 2014 and the Hawks closest rivals during Blackburn's invincible season last term.

But the Dumfries outfit have struggled this season and are only seventh in the league, although MacKriel expects a tough test.

"They won it three years ago and the year after that. Last season they were close, but this season they've had a lot of injuries," he said.

"They've made a few changes in personnel, they've got a new defenceman who has played for them previously and they've got their main import back, Martin Cingel, he's got a great record, so he'll be a threat.

"They had a massive win themselves last week so they'll be full of confidence. We can't underestimate them, we'll need to be at our best to beat them."

Last Saturday's win in Yorkshire meant the Hawks had scored 28 goals in two matches, having beaten Sutton Sting 13-1 the week before.

But their gutsy win over the Warriors at the Blackburn Ice Arena could turn out to be the crucial result of the season.

"I don't think anybody expected the kind of result we put together on Saturday. We were very, very good, we were clinical," said MacKriel.

"Sheffield were sturdy quite early on but we stuck to our game plan and took our chances very well.

"That stood us in good stead for the Whitley game. They came out all guns blazing in the first period, hats off to them, I thought they were excellent in that period.

"We weren't great, we had a few words after the first period and we played some great hockey in the second and third periods.

"That was a massive win. It was a really good team performance to come from 3-1 down against a good side to win 4-3, that was testament to the boys, they showed a lot of character and they dug deep."

The Warriors took spot off the Hawks when they inflicted a first defeat in nearly two years on them at the start of December.

But MacKriel's men have since won twice and drawn once with the North East side to open up a lead at the top.

"Whitley will be there or thereabouts, they've come on leaps and bounds since last season," he said.

"We've come out with two wins, a draw and a loss, so that tells everyone that we're going to be fighting tooth and nail to keep hold of our title."