Part 2 of our 10by10 season preview of the NIHL2 teams takes a look at the remaining 7 teams in the league.
Guest writers Laurence Thorn and Don McDermott take a look at the what we know so far about each team.
Invicta head into the new season looking to improve on a third-place finish in South 2 East, and although they did not add any notable players, they secured the returns of their top playmakers and promoted several talented youth club players to the team.
Goalkeepers John Abbott and Matthew Passmore, who split time between the posts last season, both return, with Abbott bringing his .917 save percentage. The league’s joint leading goalscorer from last season, Jake Luton will continue to ice for the Mustangs, after notching 20 goals in 18 games. Invicta are also bolstered by the commitment of captain Tom Dennis, who in addition to leading the team and providing excellent defense, picked up 25 points last season. Former captain Michael Stokes has also signed on for another season after a good year in the stats column.
Several players from the Invicta Colts also will feature in the squad. Forward Jake Stedman returns after splitting time for the past three seasons with the Colts in the England u18 league and the Mustangs in South 2. Stedman scored six goals for the Mustangs last season while scoring 32 points as captain of the Colts. His Colts teammate James Laming, who also played for both teams last season, remains on as part of both teams for the upcoming campaign.
The youth of Stedman and Laming is tempered with the addition of 30-year-old forward Bradley Gutridge, who drops down from Invicta Dynamos of South 1. Another notable returnee is Lucy Gruber, a former GB u18 forward who is back for her fifth season and is now the only woman playing outfield in NIHL South.
Invicta Mustangs kick off their season on Saturday 16th September when they will host league champions Peterborough Phantoms NIHL2 side.
Lee Valley Lions
After making positive steps forward under head coach George Alley last season, the Lee Valley Lions will hope that a settled squad can work to their benefit this campaign.
Netminder James Andrew – voted the club’s most improved player of the season last time out – returns, as does club stalwart James Joseph on the blueline. Seven of last season’s top ten points scorers are also back, with captain and main scoring threat Nick Alley leading the side once again after tallying 26 points in 17 league games last campaign.
Returning forwards Ross Sin-Hidge, Chris Fox and Simon Geldart all passed the 10-point mark last season, as did defenceman Simon Jones who is also back. Former Haringey forward Lee Hounslow joined during the last campaign and impressed, while another former Haringey man, Matt Brown, is one of the few additions to the line-up. Am exciting addition is GB Women’s international netminder Robyn Maby, back at the Den after eight seasons away.
With South 2 becoming deeper and more competitive this season, it remains to be seen where Lee Valley’s largely unchanged line-up will end up in the pecking order. A top ten finish would be a good achievement for one of the league’s perennial underdogs.
Lee Valley Lions have a pre-season game away at NIHL1 side Streatham IHC on Sunday 3rd September and start their league campaign 2 weeks later when they visit Haringey Huskies on Saturday 16th September.
Oxford City Stars
The Oxford City Stars last played in South 2 back in 2013/14, when they won the league and took promotion. After three years of improvement in South 1, the league restructuring sees them return to South 2 with a strong looking squad.
Netminder Mark Duffy moved over from the Bracknell Hornets last season, and continues in the Oxford net this time around. He’ll be joined between the pipes by another former Bracknell Hornet in the shape of Hungary’s Milan Ronai. The blueline looks strong, with man mountain Dominic Hopkins dropping down a league with the team, as does veteran Andy Cox. Alex Staples from the Chelmsford Chieftains and Stewart Tait from the London Raiders could be two key additions.
Up front, club veterans Joe Edwards, “Mr Oxford” Darren Elliott, Josh Florey and Michael Whillock are joined by new import Kamil Kinkor, recovered from a broken leg sustained last season, and Conor Redmond, who will hope for a more settled campaign after playing for three different South 1 sides last time out.
With a solid blueline, proven goalscorers up front and a dangerous import – provided that he is fully recovered from injury – the Stars should be in the mix for the South 2 title this campaign.
Oxford City Stars start their season with a visit to NIHL newcomers Guildford Phoenix on Saturday 16th September.
Peterborough Phantoms 2
After completing the ‘Treble’ of League, Cup and Playoffs last season, the Peterborough Phantoms 2 – previously Islanders – looked all set to take promotion to NIHL South 1. But after the league restructuring, the Phantoms 1 (formerly in the EPL) now find themselves in South 1; while Phantoms 2 remain in South 2.
The core of last season’s dominant side – who did not lose a single league game all of last season – remains, led by netminder Dan Lane who will also get opportunities to ‘play up’ for Phantoms 1 this season. The blueline looks solid with the return of veterans Jonathan Brammall, Connor Hunter, Craig Wallis and captain Robert McDonald, alongside talented youngsters Nathan Long and Callum Medcalf.
Up front, Peterborough retain eleven of their twelve top scoring forwards from the last campaign. The Pollard brothers, Nathan and Conor, will continue to terrorise South 2 defences, as will the likes of Connor Stokes, Clint Herring, Shaun Yardley, James Pentecost, Kenny Bavin and Bradley Moore.
With a very settled side, the Phantoms look to be among the favourites in the league this season; but much will depend on how they measure up against the four sides dropping down from the league above. If they can match up well against those teams – more silverware could be on the cards.
Peterborough Phantoms will start their defence of the league title with a visit to Invicta Mustangs on Saturday 16th September.
After winning the wooden spoon in last season’s campaign, Slough Jets signified their intent to return to relevance by signing right winger Lukas Smital to be their head coach, junior coach and international player. The Czech winger, who has spent much of his playing career in the second tiers of ice hockey in both the United States and the United Kingdom, and scored 34 points for the Bracknell Bees last season, has been preaching an “exciting” brand of ice hockey since taking over the reins in early June.
To back up the talk, the Jets have re-signed goalkeeper Chris Douglas, last season’s leading point scorer Nathan Darmanin, young defenseman Chris Beal and forward Jack Lee, who joined the Jets midway through last season. The talented Timo Lindgren, who only played nine games last season but scored eight goals, will be back for his seventh senior season at Montem Lane. Slough also have announced the additions of forward Kurt Tyrrell from Wightlink Buccaneers, towering d-man Jack Standing from Basingstoke Buffalo and Bracknell youth player Ben Eastwood, while Liam Underdown returns to the club of his youth after a season away with Bracknell Hornets.
The Jets will continue to play out of their temporary home, Silverblades Ice Arena, as their usual arena has been undergoing renovations since late 2016. Slough are hopeful that they will be back in The Hangar for the end of the season, but regardless of whether or not that happens, they will at least have home ice for the entire campaign, unlike much of last season.
Slough Jets’ campaign will start on Saturday 16th September when they visit Bristol Pitbulls.
After five seasons of punching above their weight in South 1, the club from the south coast drops down a division this season following the league restructuring. With a largely unchanged roster, they will look to challenge for a top four spot in the new South 2.
Star netminder Christian “Chico” Cole stays with the Devils after backstopping them in all five of their South 1 campaigns (apart from a brief spell at the Wightlink Raiders). The blueline in front of him also looks solid, with veterans Ben Lock, Mason Wild and club captain Alex Cole joined by former Wightlink players Kieran Annis and Andrew McCloskey.
Up front, player-coach Alex Murray will continue to lead the side both on and off the ice, and Canadian import Drew Campbell is back for another season. Also returning are Richard Facey, Mark Pitts, Alexander Trendall and Sam Rudkin, as well as youngsters Perry Stewart and Rhys McCormick who split their time between senior and junior hockey last campaign. Christopher Hocquigny also joins from Slough after already playing two games for the Devils last season.
While they were always underdogs in South 1, the Devils should be among the front runners in South 2, with a place in the top four – and home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs – probably a realistic aim.
Solent Devils kick off their season with a visit to visit to Basingstoke Buffalo on Sunday 10th September.
Swindon Wildcats 2
For many years, Swindon Wildcats 2 have acted as an affiliate of the senior Wildcats, and have played a key role in bringing through many young talents and giving them their first taste of senior hockey. That will continue this season with the senior Wildcats side now in South 1 and Wildcats 2 remaining in South 2.
Precious little is known about the roster for this season at the time of writing; in previous seasons it has been a mix of young players from the Swindon-based Okanagan Hockey Academy (OHA), and more senior Swindon-based players. Blueline veteran Daniel Sullivan is confirmed as player coach, while we can perhaps expect club stalwarts like Lee Beardsmore and the Coakley brothers Adam and Andrew to return, along with some young defensive talent from the OHA such as Deakan Fielder, Joshua Kelly and Harvey Robson – all of whom made their senior debuts last campaign.
Up front, we can perhaps expect a mix of veterans – such as Stuart Widdows, Luke Merrick and last season’s captain Loris Taylor – and OHA graduates such as Michael Power, who scored 16 points in just six league games last season in South 2 and also made one EPL appearance for the EPL Wildcats.
Until we know the Wildcats roster, it is hard to predict where they may end up. With the team’s main goal being to bring young players through and prepare them for the senior team, a mid-table finish is probably a realistic aim.
Swindon Wildcats’ season will start with a visit to Haringey on Saturday 30th September.
Tomorrow we start taking a closer look at NIHL1 South. We’ll have a team a day for the next 9 days – with previews written by players from each team.
You’ll be able to find Part 1 of this article and all the remaining articles in our 10by10 season previews (as they are released) together with all the previous seasons’ articles on the following link: http://482days.com/category/10by10/