SCOTT MCKENZIE is relishing the ‘massive challenge’ ahead as The Dragons begin their Moralee Conference season.

The Deeside outfit start life in the third tier of British ice hockey with a home clash against north-east side Billingham Stars on Sunday (5.30pm) at Deeside Leisure Centre, with Dragons stalwarts such as Simon Furnival, James Parsons and Marc Lovell joined by foreign imports Markus Kankaanranta and Filip Supa, who is retained after a successful 12 months in Flintshire. Chris Gee and Geoff Wigglesworth have signed from Widnes.

One of the major tasks facing McKenzie, who was appointed head coach in the summer having left Widnes Wild, is how to replace Adrian Palak, who scored over 60 goals last season to earn himself a big move to Sheffield Steeldogs.

“It’s a massive challenge for me and the chance to coach in a better league is a great opportunity,” he commented.

“I’ve played with Mike Bowman, Billingham coach, in the past and one thing I know is his team will be well organised and play with a good intensity.

“To be honest, we don’t know where we’re at. It’s difficult going up a league and Sunday will show us quickly whether we have the squad to compete at this level or whether we need to strengthen.

“I’ve got confidence in this group of players though. Deeside have always had a strong core of British players and I wanted to keep that with the addition of a quality import.

“We’ve lost Palak but I think we’ve brought in as good a player with a better hockey brain in the form of Markus. He should be a great signing and provide us with some added quality.”