ICE HOCKEY: MARK Stokes has put a league win over Sheffield Scimitars at the top of his Christmas wish list.
With the high-flying Yorkshiremen due at Deeside Ice Rink on Sunday for a top-of-the-table showdown, the Flintshire Freeze player-coach is calling on his players to sign off for 2003 on a high.
Said Stokes: 'It's a game I know our supporters have been very excited about for a while and the players are all really up for it too.
'Games at this time of the year are always special and we're hoping for another big crowd on Sunday.
'A win would be the perfect way to finish 2003 and it would send us into the new year with a great chance of winning the title.'
The Canadian added: 'When I came here five-and-a-half years ago I was determined to win a championship, and so far we haven't been able to do it, despite going close a few times. This is my last year with the team so I'm extra determined to make it a winning one.'
Stokes started work as a sports development officer in Glasgow at the start of this season but agreed to honour his Freeze contract which expires at the end of the current campaign.
He is upbeat about the team's championship chances and will have a full-strength squad at his disposal on Sunday.
He said: 'I've got an intensely strong squad to pick from at the moment and it's a question of who I'm going to leave out. We've got plenty of options in all areas of the team.' The fact Elite League giants Manchester Phoenix are without a fixture on Sunday is good news for the Freeze on two fronts.
Firstly it means Aaron Davies, who recently left the Freeze to sign for the Phoenix, can make a rare Deeside return. The popular youngster signed on a two-way agreement that allows him to appear for the Flintshire club when he is not required by Manchester.
Secondly, the Deeside coffers could also receive a welcome boost as many fans of the Phoenix lend their support to the Freeze when their own team don't have a game.
The Freeze were 13-11 winners over Sunderland last Sunday, but a third-period collapse enraged Stokes and his bench coach Gary Shaw. Having built a 10-4 lead in the first period, the Freeze were transformed in the final 20 minutes and almost succumbed to one of the greatest comebacks Deeside has ever seen.
Stokes warned: 'We can't afford a repeat of that final period against Sunderland. If we perform like that on Sunday, we've got no chance.'