THE Newcastle North Stars recorded a win and a loss in its first weekend of the 2014 Australian Ice Hockey League season, signalling that this year's competition will be tough to stay at the top.
Against the league's newest team last Saturday, the CBR Brave, the North Stars returned home from Canberra with a hard-fought 2-0 win.
The long road trip on Saturday, coupled with having two players suspended following the Canberra game, appeared to take its toll on the Newcastle side for Sunday's clash against the Sydney Bears at the Hunter Ice Skating Stadium. They lost to the Bears 4-0.
Newcastle coach Garry Dore said ideally he would have liked to have won both games but a "sluggish" start and "fundamental mistakes" cost them a win.
"We had a couple of great opportunities, but just couldn't get the break we needed," Dore said.
He said the North Stars' upset, along with 2013 AIHL champions Sydney Ice Dogs in Melbourne, on Sunday after strong Saturday wins showed how tough the competition would be this year.
The North Stars played a fast, physical game in Canberra on Saturday which saw rookie Hayden Sheard and Newcastle player Hamish Powell suspended from playing Sunday's game.
Sheard and Powell were served major penalties for fighting in the final 10 minutes of the game, seeing them sit out the North Stars' first home game on Sunday.
On Sunday, the Bears capitalised on defensive mistakes from the North Stars and dominated the game to post their first win of the season.
The North Stars player lines will be reshuffled before they face the Adelaide Adrenaline in Newcastle on April 26.
This week the North Stars welcome back Adam Geric, after playing at the world championship in Serbia, and Canadian import Chris Wilson.
■ The Star has a family pass to give away to the next home game on Saturday, April 26.
For your chance to win phone 1900 915 306 and leave your name and contact details. Calls cost 55 cents including GST and winners will be notified by telephone.
Entries close Tuesday, April 22, noon.