Category: Fantasy Friday
And we’re back for part 2 of #Fantasy Friday, looking at a massive what-if style tournament between the top 16 NIHL1 teams between the North and the South. Last week, Blackburn, Billingham, Solway and Bracknell all booked their ticket to the Quarter Finals.
Chelmsford Chieftains (S1) vs Solihull Barons (N8)
For me, this is the tie of the round and something that makes me wish that this was actually a real thing. Chelmsford, would undoubtably be favourites, but you can’t argue with Solihull’s record especially at home which is simply outstanding.
Chelmsford and imports has always been a complicated story with the Essex fans demanding nothing but the very best out of their imported players, but there’s no denying that Martin Piecha was up to the standard this season, top scoring for the club by a clear 10 points, 6th in the league in total. Elsewhere, Euan King in the nets was spectacular with a GAA of just 1.95, the best in the league by a mile.
NIHL2 in the north is a different league for sure, but there’s no denying the quality of Joe Henry, 99pts from 31 games and he wasn’t alone in the high numbers with four players including Swede Niklas Ottosson ending up at 80 points or more for the season.
In a lot of ways, this is about Chelmsford Defence vs Solihull’s fast moving physical attack, and I really, really could see Solihull pulling off a shock at home in the first leg, but there’s simply no way that Chelmsford would be beaten over 120 minutes of hockey and in the end, I think it’d would be comfortable.
Invicta Dynamos (S2) vs Manchester NIHL Phoenix (N7)
There’s been a lot of great (pretend) matches here. This isn’t one of them. I’m afraid here, this is Invicta by a bucket of goals. Manchester had a tough season, shipping 216 goals (second in the whole NIHL only to errr Oxford) but in just 24 games for 9 goals against a game. Invicta on the other hand come in at the highest goalscorers in the South with 202 in 36 games.
There’s not much to write more on this, other than Invicta by two dozen.
Streatham Redskins (S3) vs Whitley Warriors (N6)
Now we’re talking. Fans of both sides would be forgiven for nostalgia overload as both teams spent around five years in the old British (Heineken) Premier League, the old top tier of hockey in this country with some famous ties between the two sides before they both started their drift down the divisions. I reckon Carrsy would happy with this matchup!
Whitley’s issue has been goal scoring, scoring at just 3.3 goals a game, compared to Streatham’s 5.2 a game. However, there’s practically nothing between the sides defensively, with the two teams goals against at 3.9 and 4.1 respectively. You feel that goalkeeping would be crucial for both sides, with unsurprisingly both main starters Mark Turnball and Will Sanderson having almost identical records.
The key man for Streatham would undoubtably be Callum Best, who put up 90 points and was an everpresent threat for the Redskins. All of this being said however, I think we need a few more upsets in this competition, and I could honestly see the big trip for Streatham up to Whitley on the Saturday getting the better of them. Whitley to win the first leg by a goal, then a draw on the Sunday night to put the Warriors through.
Wightlink Raiders (S4) vs Sutton Sting (N5)
It should probably be a battle of the small (And very small rinks) but of course Sutton play out of iceSheffield at Senior Level and not out of the 36m x 18m Lammas rink in Sutton itself. And in a lot of respect, this game feels the most like heading into the unknown. Rather like in the game just above, Sutton’s issue is scoring with no player scoring more than a point a game over the full 24 game season in NIHL1 North.
However, to get a better idea of what the Sting are about, they have been a team that has constantly pulled rabbits out of hats and produced fantastic results. Winning 8-1 at home to 2nd place Billingham, beating them 6-1 at home, and getting a point in a 2-2 against the eventual winners Blackburn on opening night, they certainly seem to be a team for the big time, and in a lot of respects Wightlink had the reverse problems last season, losing to Oxford, Solent and Gosport and other teams down the foot of the table.
That being said, Wightlink, backed by Cesky, should have more than enough firepower up front to put themselves into the second round.
So, we’ll have the next round next weekend which is:
Blackburn Hawks vs Wightlink Raiders
Billingham Stars vs Whitley Warriors
Invicta Dynamos vs Solway Sharks
Chelmsford Cheiftains vs Bracknell Hornets
Posted in Fantasy Friday
And so we’ve arrived at the first round of this great way to kill time before the new season starts fantastic playoff experiment. We’ll be splitting the first round into two separate articles and we’re going to start with Games A to D, i.e the Northern heavy round which has the top four northern teams take on the bottom four Southern.
Blackburn Hawks (N1) vs London Raiders (S8)
The prelude to this series was the the league season. One side won it all and one side scraped into the playoffs after losing the series to the Oxford City Stars (ED: control yourself Carpo). However, what the two sides had in common was one thing. A very special thing. In fact, three beautiful words that combined the two teams together in way that the rest of the National Ice Hockey League couldn’t.
Those words: Penalties in Minutes.
Two sides that lead their respective leagues in the PIM counts and that’s why this entire series was touted by both clubs as the most physical encounter you’ll ever see in hockey…. And which is precisely why exactly nothing happened on ice. Both teams were so eager to provoke each other and hold their discipline meant for an encounter based upon skill before anything else.
Overall, although I recon that London would be tough to beat at Lee Valley with their form going into the playoffs, I can’t see past Blackburn, who’ve got a very solid and balanced line up and with Adam and Luke Brittle up front, it should give them more than enough firepower to win the series , so I’ve got to go for Blackburn by about five or six on aggregate.
Billingham Stars (N2) vs Solent & Gosport Devils (S7)
With the first leg in Gosport on a Saturday, Billingham’s Big Red Machine rolls into the South coast, hopefully not filling up to much at the carvery next door. While there are other small rinks in the North, there’s nothing quite like a big crowd for Solent which makes it an incredibly intimidating place to visit.
In a lot of respects, the teams themselves are made up in the same way, an import leading the way in the scoring charts for both teams, outside of that, it’s a truly team effort with everyone chipping in and a good balance of youth and experience. Solent’s strength comes from their physicality and hard working team ethic, and the same could be said of Billingham who have produced impressive performances this season, even on the occasions they have been shortbenched.
These playoffs always has the lower seeded team playing at home first on the Saturday and I honestly could see a shock result for the Devils to win by a goal, but I think the long trip up north combined with a huge effort that they would have had to put in the day before would give the Stars the win by three or four over the two legs.
Solway Sharks (N3) vs Milton Keynes Thunder (S6)
Of the ties so far, this is the first one with a real clash of ideologies going on. Milton Keynes strength for the entire season has been their goalkeeping and defence, while Solway who finished third in the league but scored the second most goals in the division. Despite this, both goalkeepers (Damien King for MK, Gary Russell for Solway) finished the season on around 92.5%, however King faced around 1350 shots to Russell’s 450.
Up front, both sides had a player in the Top 10 scoring of their respective divisions, Richard Bentham for Solway and Jamie Line from MK. Import scoring could come into player with Poziomkowski putting up over a point a game for the Thunder.
It’s difficult to look past Solway to win this tie over two legs, but I still think they would find it to be an exceptionally hard Saturday night in Milton Keynes and could easily see this being a draw, but for Solway to win back in Dumfries.
Sheffield Spartans (N4) vs Bracknell Hornets (S5)
Now, now, now. One of the most interesting ties of this entire thing for me, as we have two sides that are set up in quite a similar fashion, and the stats don’t lie:
British Home grown players: Sheffield 16/25 = 64%, Bracknell 16/26 = 62%
Players in 10 top league Scoring: Sheffield 2 (Oliver Barron, Stuart Brittle), Bracknell 1 (JJ Pitchley)
PIMS per game: Sheffield 21, Bracknell 16
Overall goalkeeping: Sheffield 91%, 3.54GAA Bracknell 88%, 3.75GAA
And to tell the truth, there doesn’t appear to be much that would separate these two sides. There is however, one factor which I haven’t mentioned as of yet, and that’s imports. In Peter Jasik especially, he’s a factor that can turn games around having proved himself as an import at this level over a number of years.
I think overall, it’s going to be an (upset) win for Bracknell in this one. I can see both sides winning at home, but I think that the imports are the difference for the Hornets who edge over the line.
Part two of the first round will come next week, but so far the Quarter-Finals look like this:
Blackburn Hawks vs Wightlink Raiders OR Sutton Sting
Billingham Stars vs Streatham Redskins OR Whitley Warriors
Invicta Dynamos OR Manchester NIHL Phoenix vs Solway Sharks
Chelmsford Cheiftains OR Solihull Barons vs Bracknell Hornets
Posted in Fantasy Friday
In the next few days, I’ll be starting a new feature which is called ‘I can’t think of a decent name for this series yet. Someone think of a decent one in the comments’. Since the the 2008/09 season, there hasn’t been an NIHL playoff champion across the entire league, i.e the North and South. But, (and this is the question that occurred to me), what if there was?
And what if, as opposed to the existing playoff system we have now, we had it across 16 teams, 8 from the North, 8 from the South? And what if, we had a made up fantasy competition trying to figure out the whole thing with one person arbitralily making it up as they went along?
The eagle-eyed of you out there will already be saying, “But Carpo, there’s only 7 teams in Division 1 North”. Fair point, but I’m adding Solihull as the 8th side to make this entire thing work.
So based upon this, we have 16 teams for this crazy playoffs. Just like normal playoffs, each team to play best of two legs and this has the first round looking like this:
Game A: Blackburn Hawks vs London Raiders
Game B: Billingham Stars vs Solent & Gosport Devils
Game C: Solway Sharks vs Milton Keynes Thunder
Game D: Sheffield Spartans vs Bracknell Hornets
Game E: Chelmsford Chieftains vs Solihull Barons
Game F: Invicta Dynamos vs Manchester NIHL Phoenix
Game G: Streatham Redskins vs Whitley Warriors
Game H: Wightlink Raiders vs Sutton Sting
There’s some fascinating games in there. For me, the tie of the round of the Chelmsford vs Solihull. You know that Chelmsford should win it, probably will win it, but in the same, Solihull have been formidable at home (And pretty much everywhere) and should post a strong challenge.
Game D, Sheffield vs Bracknell should also be an interesting one. Bracknell with the slightly younger squad but both teams are packed full of players that have grown up through the respective clubs and I’d see them being closely fought matches.
For you fans of 1980’s hockey, there’s some nostalgia overload which sees Streatham take on Whitley Bay for their first competitive game in, I don’t know, a very, very long time. I’d expect to some a fair few 80’s jersey’s in the crowd for this one.
Elsewhere, I wouldn’t fancy being either Billingham or Solent’s coach driver for this weekend as they will be racking up the mileage for sure, as will Milton Keynes whose solid defence could pose a challenge for Solway.
The first article will be up in a few days time (probably in a quiet day on 482 days I’d guess!)
Posted in Fantasy Friday