Category: Weekend Preview

January 19th, 2019 by Laurence Thorn

Another busy weekend lies ahead in NIHL South 2, with six games scheduled for Saturday and one on Sunday.

The top five sides are all in action on Saturday, with the most mouth-watering tie looking to be the derby between the fifth placed NIHL2 Raiders and the league leaders Chelmsford.

Saturday

Solent Devils vs Swindon Wildcats

The weekend’s action kicks off with a tie between third placed Solent – four points off the league lead and with two games in hand – and a Swindon side that have only picked up one point all season.

The Devils extended their current winning streak to 11 games with a big 9-3 home win over Guildford last Saturday. The score was 3-2 in favour of the Devils after 40 minutes, but a six-goal final period blitz gave Solent a comprehensive win in the end. Mitchell Murray, James Hounsome and Richard Facey each scored two goals; while there were solitary markers for Drew Campbell, Mason Wild and Alex Murray in that victory.

The Wildcats were in action twice last weekend, going down 6-0 at home to Cardiff on Saturday, before travelling to North London on Sunday and being defeated 5-2 by Haringey. On the scoresheet for the Wildcats at Alexandra Palace were Jason Warren and Eliot Randall, but their efforts weren’t enough to help the Wildcats to their first victory of the season – they still sit 14th in the table on one solitary point.

These two teams met back in September with Solent taking a 10-2 win. Expect a similar scoreline here, with anything other than a Devils win being very unlikely.

Oxford City Stars vs Bristol Pitbulls

Two teams that share the same rink clash at Oxpens Road as the fourth place City Stars face off against the Pitbulls, who currently sit tenth in the standings.

Oxford started 2019 with the expected comprehensive victory over bottom club Lee Valley last Sunday, beating the Lions by a 13-1 scoreline. Nine different players scored at least one goal for Oxford in that game, with Conor Redmond bagging four goals and Dominic Hopkins scoring a brace, while Lee Richardson scored a goal and added four assists. The Stars are now eight points off leaders Chelmsford but have four games in hand, so their quest to repeat as league champions is very much still on.

Bristol snapped a three game losing streak last weekend as they beat Peterborough 6-4 at their adopted home rink in Oxford. Olly Shone scored four goals, with Steve Osman and Richard Hargreaves adding the others and Ross Miller stopping 42 of 46 shots in net, as the Pitbulls avenged a 4-3 defeat at Peterborough earlier in the season and moved to within two points of the Phantoms, who lie in eighth.

Earlier in the season, Oxford beat Bristol 7-1 in the Pitbulls’ designated home game. The Stars will look to repeat that feat here, in order to keep up their pressure on the teams above them in the title fight.

NIHL2 Raiders vs Chelmsford Chieftains

As well as the aforementioned Oxford vs Bristol game, there’s another local derby to enjoy in Romford on Saturday as the NIHL2 Raiders host the league leading Chelmsford Chieftains.

These two sides met in Chelmsford earlier this season in an ill-tempered game, in which a total of 106 penalty minutes were handed out, and the Chieftains came away 7-1 winners.

Since that game, the Raiders have a win-loss record of 9-4, and now sit fifth in the table having beaten Bracknell 4-3 in a direct battle for that spot last Saturday. On the scoresheet for the Raiders against Bracknell were Ewan Hill (x2), Sam Roberts and Callum Burnett; while there was yet another standout performance in net from Brad Windebank as he turned away 38 of 41 Hornets shots to help his side to victory.

The Chieftains played a massive game last Saturday as they travelled to Slough to take on the second placed Jets. And after 60 minutes could not separate the two sides – the score was 3-3 at the end of regulation – the Jets scored at the 64:01 mark to take an overtime win and close to within two points of the Chieftains at the top of the pile. Goalscorers for the Chieftains in Slough were Ross Brears (x2) and Grant Bartlett.

After the Slough defeat, the Chieftains can afford no more slip-ups if they want to maintain their position at the top of the table – but the Raiders will be a tough task for the Chieftains, and the league leaders will need to show all of their quality in order to win what is sure to be an intense derby game.

Lee Valley Lions vs Guildford Phoenix

Bottom club Lee Valley are the only side in action twice this weekend, and kick their weekend off with the visit of Guildford on Saturday. The Lions went down heavily in Oxford last Sunday as expected, losing 13-1 to the Stars in what was a tough game for the East London side. The solitary Lions goal came through Tom Hnilica, returning to the side after missing their defeat to Cardiff the weekend before. Hnilica scored his tenth goal of the season in Oxford, but it was to be the only bright spot of the evening for the Lions.

The Phoenix had a tough weekend last time out, losing 9-3 in Solent and then going down 5-4 at home to Slough. Of course it must be pointed out that they were facing the second and third placed sides in the league, so the Surrey side shouldn’t be too downhearted about the results. They did a good job on Sunday to run the Jets close, losing by the odd goal in nine to a side on a 15 game winning streak, while Saturday’s trip to Gosport was less rewarding as the Phoenix shipped six goals in the third period to lose by a rather heavy scoreline.

Nonetheless, the Phoenix still lie seventh in the table and are just one point behind Bracknell who are in sixth – so they will look to get things back on track with a win over the Lions on Saturday.

Slough Jets vs Haringey Huskies

Slough look to extend their winning streak to 16 games on Saturday, as they welcome 11th place side Haringey to the Hangar.

As mentioned earlier, Slough continued their superb season last weekend with two more victories – a thrilling 4-3 overtime win against leaders Chelmsford, followed up by a 5-4 win on the road against Guildford. Those wins were made even more impressive by the fact that player-coach and top scorer Lukas Smital didn’t ice for either of those games.

But Slough have shown this season that they are definitely not a “one man team” – Sean Norris and Sam Talbot have both been breakout stars for the Jets, and they continued their strong form with two goals each against Chelmsford. On Sunday in Guildford, Norris got a single goal while Dan Rose (x2), Nathan Darmanin and Luke Reynolds stepped up with the other ones to demonstrate the scoring depth in this Jets side. And of course, we have to mention Matt Smital who faced 87 combined shots over the two games, stopping 80 of them.

The Huskies are on a winning streak of their own right now, having won their last two games which were both against Swindon. The North London side won 5-2 at home last Sunday, with goals coming through Matthew Hepburn (x2), Mark Robinson (x2) and Joseph Wllingham. The two wins over Swindon will give the Huskies confidence going into the second half of the season, as they look to chase down the likes of Cardiff and Bristol and secure a top ten finish – a tough task, but definitely doable. They have also added a new face to their roster ahead of this weekend, as veteran Scottish forward Ryan McFarlane – formerly of Bristol, Oxford and Solent as well as having iced for Edinburgh in the EIHL – joins the club.

Someone’s winning streak has to go in this game – and it would be a big surprise if Haringey could take the win here. Expect the Jets to extend that winning run to 16 games.

Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms vs Cardiff Fire

Only two points separate the Phantoms in eighth and the Fire in ninth, while the Fire also have three games in hand on their opponents in this game. So this is a big match for both sides as they look to finish as high up the table as possible.

The Phantoms went down 6-4 against Bristol last Saturday, with goals coming through Nick Alley, Jordan Liddell, James Pentecost and Ross Clarke. However they were unable to stop Pitbulls forward Olly Shone scoring four times, and ultimately the Phantoms went down to a disappointing defeat – if Peterborough had won, they would have moved up to sixth place ahead of Bracknell and Guildford. A win this weekend is thus vital for Peterborough as they try to move into the top six in the league.

Cardiff have had a rollercoaster 2019 so far – winning 8-1 at Lee Valley, going down 10-3 at home to Chelmsford, and then shutting out Swindon on the road 6-0. The Fire are ninth in the league at the moment, but have played less games than the four teams ahead of them, so could start to move up the league quickly if they can find some consistent form. Their goals against Swindon last Saturday came through Tamas Elias (x2), Iwan Davies (x2), Samual Bryant and Jackson Price, with Lewis Davies enjoying a 25-shot shutout.

This is a hard game to call, and should be an intense game between two sides scrapping for every point they can get in the tightly-packed mid-table region.

Sunday

Basingstoke Buffalo vs Lee Valley Lions

In Sunday’s only game, the 13th placed Buffalo welcome the Lee Valley Lions to Basingstoke in an intriguing tie towards the lower reaches of the table.

The Buffalo are the team in the league that have played the least amount of games – they have only played 12 times so far, and thus their league position is a little hard to read. Nonetheless, with a win-loss record of 3-9 so far, there is definite room for improvement in this Buffalo side. They have lost their last four games, with defeats to Oxford, Peterborough (twice) and Invicta. The defeat at home to Invicta last Sunday was a very disappointing one for Basingstoke, as they could have leapfrogged the Mustangs into 12th place if they had won. Instead, Mustangs goals from Joseph Bliss, Kevin Lake and Jake Stedman were enough to cancel out the sole Buffalo goal from Neil Leary, giving Invicta the win and a big two points.

The Lions, of course, are yet to win a game this season, and will come into this game having played Guildford at home the previous night. There’s a possibility that they may come into this game off the back of their first win; but if not, the Lions will feel this is a game that they have a good chance of winning, against a team not that much higher than them in the table.

This is an interesting game towards the bottom of the table, and could be the Lions’ best chance so far of taking their first win – or at least point – of the season.


Fixture information

Saturday
17:00 Solent Devils vs Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats
17:15 Oxford City Stars vs Bristol Pitbulls
17:15 NIHL2 Raiders vs Chelmsford Chieftains
17:30 Lee Valley Lions vs Guildford Phoenix
17:45 Slough Jets vs Haringey Huskies
18:15 Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms vs Cardiff Fire

Sunday
18:15 Basingstoke Buffalo vs Lee Valley Lions


NIHL South 2 (Wilkinson) Standings

Posted in Weekend Preview

January 12th, 2019 by Laurence Thorn

A very busy weekend lies ahead in NIHL South 2, with five games scheduled for Saturday and four on Sunday.

The biggest game of the weekend is, without a doubt, league leaders Chelmsford visiting second place side Slough on Saturday, in a game that could go some way towards deciding who wins the title come the end of the season.

Saturday

Slough Jets vs Chelmsford Chieftains

An absolutely pivotal game takes place on Saturday, with Slough lying five points behind leaders Chelmsford in the table but with two games in hand, meaning that a win for the Jets here would really keep up the pressure on the Chieftains.

The Jets are on a 13 game winning streak now, stretching back to September when they lost their last game against… indeed, today’s opponents Chelmsford. That was a hard-fought game in which the Jets were on the losing end of a 7-6 scoreline – making them the only team to put six goals past the Chieftains this season. Scoring for the Jets in that game were Sean Norris (x2), Timo Lindgren (x2), Lukas Smital and Dan Rose.

The Chieftains have won 15 of 17 games this season, and one of their two defeats was in overtime – meaning they have dropped just three points all season. Last weekend they took a seemingly tricky trip to Cardiff, but came away with a dominant 10-3 win, despite still missing the suspended Cameron Bartlett and Charlie Phillips. In the aforementioned 7-6 win over Slough back in September, Chieftains goals came through Courtney Grant (x2), Bradley Moore (x2), Ross Brears, Charlie Phillips and James Ayling.

This game is mouth-watering, with four of the league’s top six scorers (Brears, Smital, Ayling and Norris) all in action. Expect a dramatic game, in which the result really could go either way.

Solent Devils vs Guildford Phoenix

Another team with a long winning streak are in action at home on Saturday, as the Solent Devils look to keep up their run of ten wins in a row when they host Guildford.

The Devils are third in the table, level on points with Slough with the same number of games played, but behind the Jets courtesy of head-to-head results, as both games against the Jets ended in defeat. Since those two losses, the Devils have played 10, won 10, scoring 69 goals and conceding just 23 in that timespan. Last Sunday’s game in Romford was a tricky one for the Devils, as they came up against an in-form Brad Windebank in the Raiders net, but they nonetheless came away with a 5-3 win courtesy of goals from Alex Murray (x2), Alex Trendall, Drew Campbell and Richard Facey.

Guildford are having a very solid season, currently lying seventh in the table with just a one point gap to Bracknell and the Raiders above them. Their last game was a 4-3 overtime defeat to Bracknell on the 29th of December, with Guildford goals coming from Monty Gailer, Matthew Tull and Henry Aiken. Guildford’s results have been patchy all season long, with the Phoenix never winning or losing more than two games in a row at any point during the season.

These two sides met back on the 2nd of December, with Solent coming away 4-1 winners. Expect another Devils win here, as they look to keep up the pressure on the Jets ahead of them in the table.

Bristol Pitbulls vs Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms

The Pitbulls have lost their last three games, and lie 10th in the league following last weekend’s 6-4 home defeat against the Raiders. Giacomo Raffaelli and Steve Osman scored a brace apiece for Bristol, but it wasn’t enough to take the win. Indeed, since their 3-2 win over leaders Chelmsford back in November, the Pitbulls haven’t exactly been on great form – their only win in the five games since that landmark victory came against bottom club Lee Valley. They will hope to arrest their slide down the table in this game against the Phantoms.

After a poor start to the season, the Phantoms finally seem to be finding their feet – they have won five of their last six games to climb up to eighth in the table. A club like Peterborough would still hope to be higher than that in the table, but they are just one point behind fifth placed Bracknell now so will look to use their positive momentum to climb further up the table. Their last two games were twin victories over Basingstoke, with a big 10-3 away win coming last Sunday.

With Bristol on shaky form and Peterborough improving all the time, the Phantoms look favourites to edge this game.

Bracknell Hornets vs NIHL2 Raiders

An intriguing game takes place at the Hive as fifth placed Bracknell host the sixth placed Raiders, with both sides coming into this game on 19 points.

The Hornets have won their last two games against Guildford and Invicta, although both were pretty close games – Guildford were only put away in overtime, and Invicta were only dispatched with a 5-4 scoreline. On the scoresheet against Invicta were Jack Tarczycki, Connor Hutchison, Daniel Clayton, Liam Rasmussen and Josh Ealey-Newman, with James Richardson the busier of the two netminders on the night as he stopped 30 of 34 Mustangs shots. Hornets top scorer – and eighth in league scoring – Steve Fisher was limited to one assist, but the Hornets still came away with the two points. They’ll hope to take that momentum into a tough-looking tie against the Raiders.

It was a positive weekend for the Raiders last time out, winning 6-4 on the road against Bristol before going down to a narrow 3-5 defeat at home against Solent. Ewan Hill scored four goals against Bristol, showing what a top prospect he is despite only turning 16 a few months ago, with Tommy Huggett and Kamil Kinkor getting a goal each; while in the defeat to Solent, goals came through Stevie Dunnage, Brandon Webster and Thomas Baptist while the real star was goalie Brad Windebank who stopped 50 of 55 Devils shots.

This is a fascinating game and could go a long way towards determining who finishes in fifth place come the end of the season – the Hornets may have a slight edge as the home side, but not by much.

Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats vs Cardiff Fire

Swindon are still looking for their first win of the season following last Sunday’s tight 3-1 home defeat against Haringey. Their solitary point this season came in an overtime defeat to Peterborough back at the start of December. The Wildcats will hope to kick on in the second half of the season and start to pick up some more points, with big games to come against the likes of Haringey, Invicta, Basingstoke and Lee Valley in the coming weeks.

The Fire had a mixed weekend last time out. On Saturday they took a large roster of 19 skaters and two netminders to Lee Valley, and came away with an 8-1 win over the Lions with seven different players scoring at least one goal, with netminder James Whiting being awarded man of the match. However, they came back down to earth with a bump on Sunday, as the league leaders Chelmsford came to town and handed out a 10-3 defeat.

Now lying ninth in the table, the Fire will make the short trip to Swindon on Saturday hoping to take the win and close the gap to the sides above them.

Sunday

Guildford Phoenix vs Slough Jets

Both Guildford and Slough play their second game of the weekend on Sunday, as the Jets travel to the Spectrum to face the Phoenix.

Guildford have a 50% home record so far this season, with three wins and three losses. These two sides met in Slough last month, with the Jets coming away with a 4-1 win. The sole Guildford goal that day came through player-coach Andrew Hemmings, who has nine goals and 15 assists to his name this season for a total of 24 points. Last season, Hemmings was one of a trio of big scorers for the Phoenix alongside Josh Abbott and Bailey Wootton – however this season, Abbott has missed seven games and Wootton has missed eight games, with Jared Lane (two goals and 15 assists for 17 points) stepping up as one of the team’s top scorers.

The Jets’ big scorers are pretty well known by now; player-coach Lukas Smital (18+45=63), and youngsters Sean Norris (22+22=44) and Sam Talbot (18+15=33) are all in the top nine in league scoring at the moment. In addition to that, both of the team’s young goaltenders Matt Smital and Brett Shepherd are having strong seasons, and showing that the potential risk of fielding an inexperienced goaltending duo has paid off for the Jets. Goalscorers for the Jets in the aforementioned 4-1 win against Guildford last month were Liam Underdown (x2) and Sam Talbot (x2).

The Phoenix will definitely put up a good fight in this game, but Slough will be the favourites in this game – whatever their result the previous night.

Haringey Huskies vs Swindon Wildcats

This is an immediate rematch of last Sunday’s game in which the Huskies won 3-1 in Swindon, picking up their fourth win of the season and leapfrogging Invicta to go 11th in the table. Goals for Haringey in that game came through Gheorghe Dragomir, Luke Martin-Digby and Stephen Woodford, while netminder Harry Buckingham saved 22 of 23 Swindon shots. The Huskies will hope to take that good momentum into this Sunday’s home game against the same opponents.

The Wildcats have yet to pick up a point on the road this season, let alone a win, and have travelled with small benches to some games. So their competitiveness in this game could really come down to how many, and which, players travel to the game. Last weekend’s defeat to the Huskies was a tight one, so if the Wildcats put in a strong performance here then a positive result is possible.

Nonetheless, the Huskies are favourites to take their fifth win of the season in this one.

Oxford City Stars vs Lee Valley Lions

Reigning league champions Oxford currently lie fourth, which on first glance is a lot lower than they would want to be. However when you factor in that they are only four points behind Slough with two games in hand, and nine points behind Chelmsford with four games in hand, then it becomes clear that the City Stars are still very much in the title hunt. Their last game was a comfortable 10-3 win over Basingstoke before Christmas, after their previous game against Basingstoke had been a tight 3-2 away win. On the scoresheet in the 10-3 victory over the Buffalo were Tom Davis, Conor Redmond, Lee Richardson (two goals each), Josh Oliver, Michal Oravec, Alex Staples and Joe Edwards.

The Lions are still winless after starting 2019 with a home defeat against Cardiff last Saturday. The game started well for the Lions, as they trailed the Fire by a score of 2-1 until the 34th minute of the game – before several soft goals cost the Lions and led to an eventual final scoreline of 8-1. The sole Lions goal in the game came from Gus Zimmerman. This will be another extremely tough game for a side that is adding new players and improving, but still have a way to go before being able to challenge for wins.

Expect a comfortable Oxford win here.

Basingstoke Buffalo vs Invicta Mustangs

A big tie towards the lower reaches of the table completes the games on Sunday, as 13th placed Basingstoke host 12th placed Invicta. The Buffalo have put in some strong performances recently, beating Haringey and only losing by narrow margins against Oxford and Peterborough in their last five games. However they have also lost by heavy margins to Oxford and Peterborough in the same timespan, with their last game being a 10-3 home defeat to the Phantoms last weekend. Buffalo goals in that game came through Samuel Brooks (x2) and Liam Coleman. The Buffalo are just one point behind the Mustangs with five games in hand, so a win here would help them to start to move up the league table.

The Mustangs surprised a lot of people last weekend as they took Bracknell all the way before going down by a tight scoreline of 5-4 away from home. Invicta goals at the Hive came through Joseph Bliss, Anthony Baskerville, Richard Harris and Jack Rowland, while goaltender Matthew Passmore was named man of the match for yet another strong performance. The Mustangs have won just three of their 16 games so far this season, so this is a crucial game to win as they look to finish as high up the table as possible.

This game is a very hard one to call – expect an intense scrap.


Fixture information

Saturday January 12th 2019
17:00 Solent Devils vs Guildford Phoenix
17:00 Bristol Pitbulls vs Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms
17:45 Slough Jets vs Chelmsford Chieftains
18:00 Bracknell Hornets vs NIHL2 Raiders
18:15 Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats vs Cardiff Fire

Sunday January 13th 2019
17:30 Guildford Phoenix vs Slough Jets
17:30 Haringey Huskies vs Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats
18:15 Oxford City Stars vs Lee Valley Lions
18:15 Basingstoke Buffalo vs Invicta Mustangs


NIHL South 2 (Wilkinson) Standings

Posted in Weekend Preview

January 4th, 2019 by Laurence Thorn

After last weekend where only two matches took place to close out 2018 – Bracknell beating Guildford 4-3 in a shootout and Peterborough ending the year on a high with a 5-3 win over Basingstoke – we start off 2019 with seven matches this upcoming weekend.

The two games on Saturday pit winless Lee Valley against Cardiff, and Bristol against the Raiders; while there are five matches on Sunday with league leaders Chelmsford and current third placed side Solent both in action amongst others.

Saturday

Lee Valley Lions vs Cardiff Fire

The Lions closed out 2018 three weeks ago with their best performance of the season in going down to a 10-5 defeat to league leaders Chelmsford. It was the first time this season that the Lions had scored five goals, as well as being their smallest losing margin of the campaign so far. Czech forward Tom Hnilica scored a brace of goals in the Chelmsford game, with the other goals coming from Gus Zimmerman, Richard Hodge and Dexter Crawford. They will hope to build on those positive signs in the first game of 2019, and could hand a debut to Latvian defenceman Elvis Timofejevs, who has joined the club as a second non-British trained player alongside the aforementioned Hnilica. League rules only allow one import player to ice per game, so it will be interesting to see what the Lions’ strategy is for the rest of the season in this regard.

The Fire seem to have waited ages since their last game – they haven’t played since the 1st of December when the Raiders came to town and were dispatched 6-5. Cardiff goals in that game came through Jordan Powell (x3), Joe Morris, Stephen Deacon and Jackson Price, while young goaltender Lewis Davies put in another strong performance as he stopped 37 of 42 shots on net. It’s been an inconsistent season for the Fire so far, winning six and losing five games to sit 10th in the table as things stand, albeit with several games in hand on the teams ahead of them. The Fire beat the Lions 10-2 in Cardiff earlier in the season.

One factor that could affect the outcome of this game is how strong a roster the Fire travel to East London with, as they are known for travelling light to some away games. Last season they won a tight game at Lee Valley 5-4 in overtime, and the Lions will be hoping that they can get something similar out of this game to start 2019 off with a bang.

Bristol Pitbulls vs Raiders NIHL2

In a game that was originally set for the 2nd of March but has now been rescheduled, the ninth placed Bristol Pitbulls host the Raiders, who currently lie seventh.

The Pitbulls have won six games, lost seven in regulation, and lost a further two in overtime, as they have struggled to string a run of results together this season. They haven’t won more than two games on the bounce so far, while their longest losing streak was four games between October and November. In their last game, the Pitbulls went down 5-8 against the Slough Jets; while earlier in the season, Bristol won a thriller in Romford against the NIHL2 Raiders by a score of 4-3, as Olly Shone scored the game winner with just 11 seconds left in regulation time.

The Raiders for their part have won eight and lost five games to currently sit seventh in the table, with their last game coming on the 22nd of December where they suffered a 3-4 overtime loss in Guildford. Raiders goals in that game against Guildford came through George Gell (x2) and Tommy Huggett; while Huggett was also on the scoresheet in the aforementioned 3-4 defeat to Bristol in Romford earlier in the season, as were Matt Brown and Kamil Kinkor.

This is a tough game to predict, and it could be another very close one.

Sunday

Raiders NIHL2 vs Solent Devils

The Raiders are back in action on Sunday, this time at home as they welcome third placed Solent to the Sapphire in Romford.

When these two sides met earlier in the season in Gosport, the Raiders travelled light (10+1 players) and came away with a creditable 8-5 defeat. Tommy Huggett (x2), Kamil Kinkor, George Gell and Alan Lack got the Raiders goals that night, with Brad Windebank in net turning away 48 of 56 shots he faced. With this Sunday’s game against the Devils being a home game, the Raiders will hope to have a larger roster for this game, and will be aiming to keep the scoreline even closer.

The Devils have won nine in a row since suffering twin defeats to Slough in October, and sit third in the table at the moment just two points off Slough, with a game in hand. They have scored eight or more goals in five of their last nine games, with the main scoring threats (as always) being Richard Facey and Alex Murray, who are joint-third in league scoring with 50 points each. They have also had strong goaltending throughout the season, with both Christian Cole and Matt Colclough registering save percentages above 92%.

This will be a tough ask for the Raiders, with the Devils favourites to win their tenth game on the bounce and draw level on points with second placed side Slough.

Bracknell Hornets vs Invicta Mustangs

The Hornets currently lie sixth in the table, and pulled to within a point of Guildford above them (with two games in hand) when they beat the Phoenix in a shootout last Saturday. Hornets goals during regulation time in that game came from Danny Hughes (x2) and Connor Hutchison. It’s been an up-and-down season for the Berkshire side, as they have lost three of their last five games (and five of their last ten) and lie five points outside a playoff spot. As one of the top four sides last season – and the host of the playoff finals weekend once again this year – they will be desperate to finish in the top four and qualify for that finals weekend. Thus, games against teams lower down in the table such as Invicta are absolutely crucial.

The Mustangs are currently 11th, with three wins, 11 regulation losses and one overtime loss putting them on seven points. They have lost seven of their last eight games, with a big win over Haringey – who lie 12th, level on points with the Mustangs – sandwiched in between the defeats. The goal of the Mustangs this season really has to be to finish ahead of the likes of Haringey, Basingstoke, Swindon and Lee Valley – a goal they are looking on course to achieve at the moment.

Invicta hosted Bracknell last month, with the Hornets winning 8-3. A similar result here in the return fixture would not be a big surprise at all.

Cardiff Fire vs Chelmsford Chieftains

Cardiff play their second game of the weekend on Sunday, this time at home against league leaders Chelmsford. The Fire haven’t played in over a month as mentioned earlier, but did win their last two games which came against Swindon and the NIHL2 Raiders. Top points scorers for the Fire this season to date are Jackson Price (10+9) and Jordan Powell (8+11), both of whom have 19 points, while Tamas Elias isn’t far behind on 9+7=16. The best goaltender statistically is Lewis Davies with a save percentage of just under 90% (89.84%).

The Chieftains played their first “home” game at Lee Valley two weekends ago after a number of games on the road, beating the Invicta Mustangs 8-3. Missing from the Chelmsford line-up were defenceman Charlie Phillips and forward Cameron Bartlett, both suspended by the EIHA pending an investigation into incidents during a game between Chelmsford and Peterborough three weeks ago. Without those two players, the Chieftains were still able to comfortably defeat the Mustangs, with goals coming through James Ayling (x3), Ross Brears (x2), Grant Bartlett, Courtney Grant and Ross Cowan.

Although the Chieftains have won four on the bounce and still sit top of the table, their winning margins recently haven’t been as high as they were during a lot of games earlier in the season. With in-form teams such as Slough and Solent breathing down their necks, they will have to maintain a high standard of play if they want to keep their spot at the top of the pile. This could be a tough game – Cardiff is a tough place to travel – but one the Chieftains will feel confident of winning, given their results so far this season.

Basingstoke Buffalo vs Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms

These two sides meet for the second time in eight days, with the Phantoms winning at home by a score of 5-3 last Saturday. Phantoms goals in that game came from Conor Pollard (x2), Jake Samal, Ross Clarke and Bradley Wright; while the Buffalo goals were scored by Jack Peacock, Samuel Brooks and Sam Dollin. Confusingly, the netminder for the Phantoms that night was also called Jack Peacock, and he stopped 32 of 35 Buffalo shots, while Aaron Burton in the Basingstoke net stopped 32 of 36.

The Buffalo are 13th in the table as things stand, but are the team that have played the smallest amount of games this season so far, and have a lot of games in hand on teams ahead of them. They will hope for a strong home result here against a Phantoms side that still haven’t hit their stride this season.

Although the Phantoms have won four of their last five games, a lot of those wins have been by narrow margins, and a league position of eighth is definitely below where the Phantoms would expect to be. It looks like they will also have to do without starting netminder Dan Lane again on Sunday (if the investigation into the aforementioned Peterborough-Chelmsford game is still not completed by the weekend), although Jack Peacock did do a good job in the Peterborough net when called upon last Saturday and backstopped them to victory.

On paper, the Phantoms should be favourites to win this – but given how tight last weekend’s game was, the Buffalo will be confident of getting something out of this game, especially at home.

Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats vs Haringey Huskies

Winless Swindon will feel they have a good chance of taking their first victory of the season on Sunday, as they play host to a Haringey side on a four game losing streak.

The Wildcats lie 14th in the table, courtesy of a solitary point picked up in an overtime defeat against Peterborough in their last game. That was almost a month ago, so it’s been a long time since the Wildcats hit the ice. In that 3-2 overtime defeat against the Phantoms, the Wildcats goals were scored by Jake Williams and Jack Goodchild, with netminder Kyle Landells stopping 30 of 33 shots that he faced. Swindon will look to continue that momentum in this game.

The Huskies lie in 12th place, level on points with the Invicta Mustangs ahead of them, but lost a direct clash with the Mustangs by a score of 8-3 in their penultimate game before Christmas. They also lost 3-2 in Basingstoke the day after that in what was a tough road trip for the North London side, and they now have a record of three wins, 10 regulation losses and one overtime loss at the midpoint of the season. They will hope to get their season back on track with a victory against the Wildcats in this game.

This is an intriguing clash towards the lower reaches of the table, and both sides will feel they can get something from the game.


Fixture information

Saturday January 5th 2019
17:30 Lee Valley Lions vs Cardiff Fire
19:00 Bristol Pitbulls vs Raiders NIHL2

Sunday January 6th 2019
17:30 Raiders NIHL2 vs Solent Devils
18:00 Bracknell Hornets vs Invicta Mustangs
18:00 Cardiff Fire vs Chelmsford Chieftains
18:15 Basingstoke Buffalo vs Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms
18:15 Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats vs Haringey Huskies


NIHL South 2 (Wilkinson) Standings

Posted in Weekend Preview

December 22nd, 2018 by Laurence Thorn

With just a few days to go until Christmas, there are only four games on the schedule in NIHL South 2 this weekend – all on Saturday.

Second place side Slough look to continue their winning streak – which currently stands at 12 consecutive games(!) – as they host local rivals Bracknell in a huge game, while league leaders Chelmsford are also in action as are Oxford, who currently lie in fourth.

Saturday

Oxford City Stars vs Basingstoke Buffalo

Reigning league champions Oxford haven’t had it all their own way this season – they currently lie fourth, seven points off league leaders Chelmsford, although they do have three games in hand. Nonetheless, games in hand only mean anything if you win all of them, and as of late the Stars’ form hasn’t been as dominant as one might expect. Last time out they only managed to win 3-2 in Basingstoke against the same opponents they will face in this game, while the game before that was a disappointing 4-2 defeat in Gosport against title rivals Solent. This home game against the Buffalo is therefore a must-win for Oxford, who will look to make a statement and end the year in style.

The Buffalo are on strong form of late; as mentioned above, they held Oxford to a tight 3-2 scoreline a few weeks ago in a match that was a lot closer than most people expected it to be, and last weekend won by a scoreline of 3-2 themselves against the Haringey Huskies. Goalscorers against Haringey were Liam Coleman, Cameron Buckle and Warren Jones, while Aaron Burton wasn’t as busy in goal as he usually is, turning away 20 of 22 Huskies shots. That result means that the Buffalo are just one point behind 11th place Invicta and 12th Haringey, despite having six(!) games in hand on both of those sides.

This could be an interesting game if the Stars aren’t able to get back to their best form – but with the Stars at home, they are still heavy favourites for this game.

Guildford Phoenix vs Raiders NIHL2

A tight game is almost guaranteed at the Spectrum as seventh placed Guildford welcome a Raiders side just two places and one point ahead of them in the table. The Phoenix didn’t play last weekend, but two weekends ago beat Bristol 3-1, with goals coming from Nick Minhinnick (x2) and Jared Lane. Impressively, the Phoenix beat Bristol despite missing both Josh Abbott and Bailey Wootton, two of their top four scorers, who have both been missing since November.

Earlier in the season, the Phoenix visited Romford and suffered a 5-4 defeat in penalty shots after a close game, with the aforementioned Abbott scoring twice and other goals coming through Taylor Wootton and Oliver Denis.

The NIHL2 Raiders are flying high in fifth place at the moment – an impressive feat considering they are a brand new team. Their last game was three weekends ago, when they dispatched Basingstoke 10-3 with a clinical performance. Kamil Kinkor scored a hat-trick against Basingstoke, with braces for Tommy Huggett and Ewan Hill, and single goals for Brandon Webster, Matthew Hamilton and Alan Lack.

In the aforementioned 5-4 win on penalty shots over Guildford back in October, the goals came from Kinkor, Huggett, Lack and Sam Roberts, while Brad Windebank stopped 33 of 37 shots he faced in net. Expect a similarly tight game on Saturday between two evenly-matched sides.

Chelmsford Chieftains vs Invicta Mustangs

After playing six road games on the bounce since their Riverside rink closed for refurbishment, the Chieftains play their first “home” game in almost two months on Saturday – hosting Invicta at Lee Valley Ice Centre. Funnily enough, the Chieftains’ last game was at the same rink last Sunday, as they beat bottom side Lee Valley Lions 10-5.

It was their second win of the weekend, having also won 7-2 in Peterborough the night before – although the game was filled with controversy as the Chieftains accrued 121 penalty minutes, including a Match penalty for Cameron Bartlett and two Match penalties for Charlie Phillips. At the time of writing, the EIHA hadn’t revealed the lengths of any bans that may have come from that game.

When the Chieftains focus on their hockey, they are one of – if not the best – sides in the league. They have scored 119 goals in 15 games this season while conceding just 33, for a spectacular goal difference of +86. They will be an extremely difficult test for the Mustangs.

The Mustangs are nonetheless coming into this game off the back of their third win of the season last Saturday, as they dispatched Haringey 8-3 to move level on points with the Huskies and rise up to 11th in the standings ahead of the North London side. Anthony Baskerville scored a brace for the Mustangs against Haringey, with six other players scoring a goal apiece, as the Kent side could finally break a six game losing streak.

Despite that win however, the Chieftains are a totally different kettle of fish – and the league leaders are big favourites here to take another win and keep a firm grip on top spot in the standings.

Slough Jets vs Bracknell Hornets

The Berkshire derby on Saturday promises to be a tasty affair, as the Jets – currently second in the league and on a run of 12 consecutive wins – host a Bracknell side looking to stay within touching distance of the top four.

Slough took that aforementioned 12th win on the bounce last weekend as they beat Bristol 8-5. Not only that – they showed their strength in depth as eight different players scored a goal apiece, proving that they do not just rely on their big name forwards such as Lukas Smital, Sam Talbot and Sean Norris. Earlier this month, these two sides met in Bracknell and the Jets came out on top 4-3 in a thrilling game, with young netminder Brett Shepherd backstopping them to victory as he stopped 36 of 39 Hornets attempts, while the aforementioned Talbot scored a brace.

This season hasn’t quite gone to plan for the Hornets, who were expected to be a top four side before the season began but currently lie in sixth position, five points outside the top four. Their last game was a comfortable 8-3 win over Invicta, but in the two games before that they lost to Slough and Solent – teams they would have hoped to be competing with for playoff spots this season. If the Hornets want to have a good chance of taking fourth spot at the end of the season and therefore making the playoffs, they have to start winning big games like this.

The pressure will be on the Hornets to deliver a victory here, but the Jets are flying high – expect an intense game.


Fixture information

Saturday
17:15 Oxford City Stars vs Basingstoke Buffalo
17:30 Guildford Phoenix vs Raiders NIHL2
17:30 Chelmsford Chieftains vs Invicta Mustangs (@ Lee Valley)
17:45 Slough Jets vs Bracknell Hornets


NIHL South 2 (Wilkinson) Standings

Posted in Weekend Preview

December 14th, 2018 by Nancy Carpenter

It’s the second leg of the Autmn Cup final today as Peterborough and Sheffield do battle for the first silverware of the season. We also have 6 league games this weekend to take a look at.

Autumn Cup Action
The Autumn Cup reaches its conclusion tonight in a winner-takes-all game between Peterborough and Sheffield.  The first leg, held in Sheffield last week, ended in a 2-2 draw. Ashley Calvert scored a 2nd period brace to give the home side a 2-0 advantage which they held on to until the 54th minute when Glenn Billing and Ales Padelek scored within 19 seconds of each other to level up the game.

The two teams are currently both top of their respective leagues by a two point margin with games in hand. Steeldogs are currently unbeaten in the league, while Phantoms have just one regulation and one OT loss to their name. So what we have is a winner-takes-all battle between two teams who are pretty much at the top of their game at the moment!

In the group stages, the two games between them were low scoring thrillers. Steeldogs won in regulation by the odd goal in three at Peterborough but Phantoms took immediate revenge the next day with an OT win in Sheffield to take a 3-2 win there.

All the omens are very good for this to be one hell of a game this evening – and @482days will be there to cover it with live twitter – although for those who can’t be there in person, we also highly recommend the excellent live stream that the Phantoms will be doing.

League action
It’s a relatively quiet Saturday this weekend, with just 2 league games.

There’s be no nursing the post cup-final hangover (whether in celebration or commiseration) for the Phantoms who travel to Basingstoke to face the team that pipped them to the post in the league honours last season.  Since then of course the sides have met twice this season, and Phantoms have taken all the points in those encounters with a 2-1 regulation win in Basingstoke and a 3-1 win at home. Bison had back to back 5-1 wins last weekend against Streatham and Invicta to keep them firmly in the top half of the table and still within reach of retaining their league title.

In the other game, Swindon will be looking to keep the pressure up on the Phantoms in the league race as they host Invicta. While no game is ever a sure thing until the final whistle, Wildcats have comfortably had the better of the Mos so far this season and have yet to concede a goal to them with 6 points and a 20-0 aggregate scoreline from the three games between the sides so far. For Mos, this looks like an uphill battle, but at the very least they will want to break that shut-out scoreline and will be giving it everything as they do every time.

All 8 teams are in action on Sunday, meaning that Phantoms will play their third game in less than 72 hours as they host MK Thunder. The fantastic news out of Milton Keynes this week has been that they met their funding target and so this will now not be their final game of the season! 482days would like to say well done to the hockey community both within MK and the league as a whole. So impressive to see how everyone has pulled together this season to help two struggling teams.

It’s also clear that the Thunder have been really pulling together on the ice as well with 2 strong wins in the last two weekends after first beating Bison in a penalty shootout before taking a very healthy 5-1 win against Streatham last weekend. They have shown that they are not a team to be taken lightly and Phantoms will need to stay sharp.

After a slow start to the season, Raiders are having a fantastic December and are now on a 4-game winning streak. Despite being outshot by both the Wildcats and the Bees, the Romford team managed to come out with 4 points with two very good regulation wins. Netminder Michael Gray is also clearly on a hot streak himself as he had a combined save percentage of over 95% across the two games last weekend to add to his 29-shot shutout against the Dynamos the weekend before.  This weekend, Raiders will once again face the Wildcats as the Wiltshire based outfit look for revenge on their 5-2 home loss.

For Streatham, last weekend was very much the other side of the coin.  The Redhawks will have been disappointed to drop to 6th in the league last weekend after back to back 5-1 losses against Bison and Thunder. They face the Bison again this weekend and will be looking to put the smiles back on their home fans’ faces.

Finally, Bees travel to Kent to play the Dynamos. This week the Bracknell outfit announced that they were parting ways with import David Millner who has now been announced as moving to NIHL2 title contenders Chelmsford. Bees certainly seem to be struggling to find the right fit for their second import slot this season with Millner being the third to be released from the slot already this season. Mos are also one import short of the allowance at the moment as they continue to search for the right fit for their squad.


We’ll be covering the Autumn Cup final this evening and will also have live updates from across the whole of #oneNIHL all weekend.

Looking for info on the NIHL2 South games? You can find the NIHL2 South preview HERE where our NIHL2 correspondent Laurence Thorn takes a look at all the action in that league this weekend.


Fixture information
Friday
19:30 Peterborough Phantoms vs Sheffield Steeldogs (Autumn Cup Final)

Saturday
18:15 Swindon Wildcats vs Invicta Dynamos (NIHL1)
18:30 Basingstoke Bison vs Peterborough Phantoms (NIHL1)
Sunday
17:15 Invicta Dynamos vs Bracknell Bees (NIHL1)
17:30 Peterborough Phantoms vs Milton Keynes Thunder (NIHL1/Cup)
17:30 Raiders vs Swindon Wildcats (NIHL1)
18:45 Streatham IHC vs Basingstoke Bison (NIHL1)

Tables for active competitions this weekend
NIHL1 Britton League

NIHL1 South Cup Group Stage

Posted in Weekend Preview

December 14th, 2018 by Laurence Thorn

With just a few weeks to go until Christmas, there are six games on the schedule in NIHL South 2 this weekend – four on Saturday and two on Sunday.

Three teams do double duty, with Chelmsford, Haringey and Lee Valley playing on both days. The game on Sunday between Lee Valley and Chelmsford was originally scheduled for October 27th, but was postponed and will now take place on the 16th of December.

Saturday

Bristol Pitbulls vs Slough Jets

Ninth hosts second on Saturday as the Pitbulls, who seem to keep dropping down the table at the moment, take on the high-flying Jets. Bristol lost 3-1 in Guildford last Sunday, in what was their sixth defeat in their last eight games. The lone Pitbulls goal was scored by Josh Galea, while Ross Miller was busy in net as he faced 38 shots – 21 of them coming in the second period – stopping 35 of them. Bristol player-coach Richard Hargreaves also received 30 penalty minutes at the end of the game for abuse of the officials. The Pitbulls and the Jets have already met this season, last month at the Hangar – with the Pitbulls taking a point after going down 5-4 in overtime.

If the Pitbulls want to get anything from this game, they will have to play extremely well against a Jets team now on an 11 game winning streak. The goalscoring has dried up somewhat for the Jets compared to some thrashings they handed out earlier in the season, but they are still winning game after game, backstopped by two highly impressive young netminders in Matthew Smital and Brett Shepherd who have both impressed between the pipes this season. And we say their names every week, but the likes of Lukas Smital, Sam Talbot and Sean Norris up front would strike fear into any NIHL2 side – expect them to be difference makers in this game.

The Pitbulls will play hard as always, but the Jets are definite favourites to take the win in this game.

Invicta Mustangs vs Haringey Huskies

The Mustangs have won just two games this season and lie 12th, while the Huskies have won three and sit 11th – therefore this is a key game for both of these teams as they look to try and break away from the back of the pack. The Mustangs have lost six games in a row now since a 6-0 win against Swindon back in October, with last Saturday’s 3-8 home defeat to Bracknell being the latest of those losses. Goals from Aaron Ferris, Bradley Gutridge and Jamie Smith weren’t enough for the Mustangs as they shipped eight goals against the Hornets, with Matthew Passmore stopping 44 of the 52 shots he faced.

The Huskies went down 9-0 to Solent in Gosport on Saturday – an expected heavy defeat against one of the league’s stronger sides. But in their previous two games, the Huskies had beaten London rivals Lee Valley and followed that up with a shootout loss to Peterborough, so Haringey are definitely on better form than Invicta despite last weekend’s defeat. The Huskies also keep adding new faces to their roster, such as the Hepburn brothers James and Matthew (both formerly of Lee Valley) as they continue to try and strengthen their roster as the season goes on.

The Mustangs have strengthened their roster recently too, but the Huskies’ recent form probably makes them slight favourites for this game.

Lee Valley Lions vs Solent Devils

The Lions are now the only side without a point after Swindon took Peterborough to overtime last weekend – and now the East London side face two of the toughest teams in the division this weekend as Solent visit on Saturday and Chelmsford are in town on Sunday. The Lions showed  somewhat improved performances in recent games against Bristol and Oxford – they still went down to defeat and conceded double figure goal tallies, but managed to score a total of seven goals across the two games and had some strong passages of play too. Still, the side is a long way off challenging for wins, and the Devils are an extremely difficult opponent to face.

Apart from two defeats to Slough in October, the Devils have had an impressive season to date, winning each of their other 11 games to lie third in the table behind leaders Chelmsford and second placed side Slough. They have scored 90 goals in 13 games to date – only the aforementioned Chelmsford and Slough have scored more – and already handed out a heavy defeat to the Lions earlier on in the season, winning 13-0 in Gosport back in October.

Expect a big victory for the Devils in this one.

Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms vs Chelmsford Chieftains

The Phantoms’ topsy-turvy season continued last Sunday, as they needed overtime to defeat the Swindon NIHL Wildcats, who had previously not scored a single point on the season. It was the fourth time that the Phantoms had gone to overtime this season – and they have won every one of those four games, showing that the team has a knack of winning the tight games when it really matters. They now lie eighth in the table, hoping that they can build on their recent three-game winning streak to move further up the table. Next in their sights are the likes of Romford, Bracknell and Guildford, who all lie either one or two points ahead.

To move up the table this weekend though, they will have to defeat the league leaders Chelmsford. The Chieftains have dropped only three points this season so far in 13 games, with a regulation loss to Oxford and an overtime defeat to Bristol the only blemishes on their record. They beat the Phantoms 7-0 back in October at home, and since then they have been announced the arrival of Swedish utility player David Millner who joins from NIHL1 side the Bracknell Bees and who the club hopes will be able to make his debut this weekend. The Chieftains have scored the most (102) and conceded the least (26) goals of any team in the division so far, while in the same number of games the Phantoms have scored 62 and conceded 54.

This match is in Peterborough, so should be closer than the aforementioned 7-0 back in October – but nonetheless, the Chieftains have to be favourites to win this game and keep their place at the top of the pile.

Sunday

Lee Valley Lions vs Chelmsford Chieftains

In a game rescheduled from October, both Lee Valley and Chelmsford play their second game in two days. The Lions, as mentioned above, are still at the bottom of the table and keep adding new faces to their roster in order to try to create a team that can move up the table. Some of the new signings have performed well in recent weeks, with Czech import Tom Hnilica moving on to seven goals for the season in nine games and former Streatham junior Conner Smith making an impressive debut against Bristol, scoring two goals and assisting on another one for three points on his senior debut.

However, as with Saturday’s game against Solent, the Lions will come up against a very strong opponent on Sunday in the league-leading Chieftains. Chelmsford beat Lee Valley 14-1 back in September in the season opener, and the Chieftains have got stronger since then with the return of the Bartlett twins and the addition of the aforementioned Millner. Anything other than a Chieftains win here would be a major shock.

Basingstoke Buffalo vs Haringey Huskies

The Huskies play their second road game of the weekend on Sunday as they travel to Basingstoke to face the Buffalo. The home side have some catching up to do in terms of fixtures, as this will be only their eighth game of the season while it will already be the Huskies’ 14th game. Despite playing five games less than the Huskies, the Buffalo are only three points behind – so a win here would put them one step closer to overhauling the Huskies and starting to move up the table.

The Buffalo surprised a lot of people last Sunday as they limited reigning league champions Oxford to a very tight 3-2 win, forcing the Stars to give it everything they had in order to come out on top. The only other sides to keep Oxford to three goals or less this season have been Guildford, Chelmsford and Solent – so the Buffalo can count themselves as a member of quite an exclusive club.

If they can keep up that form against a Huskies side that will be playing their second away game of the weekend, then the Buffalo will hope to take the win in this one.


Looking for info on the NIHL1 South games? You can find the NIHL1 South preview HERE.


Fixture information

Saturday
17:00 Bristol Pitbulls vs Slough Jets
17:15 Invicta Mustangs vs Haringey Huskies
17:30 Lee Valley Lions vs Solent Devils
18:15 Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms vs Chelmsford Chieftains

Sunday
17:30 Lee Valley Lions vs Chelmsford Chieftains
18:15 Basingstoke Buffalo vs Haringey Huskies


NIHL South 2 (Wilkinson) Standings

Posted in Weekend Preview

December 8th, 2018 by Laurence Thorn

There’s a nice even split of games in NIHL South 2 this weekend, as there are three games each on Saturday and Sunday.

Slough and Solent, now second and third in the league respectively after wins last weekend, both have home games on Saturday; while Oxford, who slipped to fourth following defeat to the Devils, look to get their title challenge back on track with a trip to Basingstoke on Sunday.

Saturday

Solent Devils vs Haringey Huskies

The Devils made a massive statement last Saturday, knocking off Oxford by a score of 4-2 to leapfrog the Stars into third place in the league. Daniel Lackey was the star of the show for the Devils, scoring twice and assisting two others to be directly involved in all four Solent goals; while Richard Facey and Alex Murray bagged a goal each too. “Chico” Cole was busy in net, facing 42 shots, and he turned away 40 of them to backstop his side to a win. Solent have now won seven in a row since their double defeat to Slough in October, and sit just three points off leaders Chelmsford with a game in hand. Thus with victory over the Huskies, they could close the gap at the top to just a solitary point

The Huskies currently sit 11th, with three wins and eight defeats to their name. Their last game was a tight 5-4 loss to Peterborough in a shootout after 65 minutes could not separate the two sides. Ben Osborne was the star for the Huskies in that game, the captain netting three goals and assisting on the other goal scored by Stephen Woodford as well. Sebastian Downing also had a big part to play in the game, assisting on all four goals. Additionally, the Huskies handed a debut to former Lee Valley Lions captain James Hepburn in that game, with his brother Matt having already joined the team earlier in the season.

As impressive as the Peterborough game was for the Huskies, the Solent Devils are a totally different kettle of fish – especially in Gosport. Expect the Devils to skate away with a win in this one.

Invicta Mustangs vs Bracknell Hornets

The Mustangs currently lie 12th, having lost their last five games in a row and having won just twice all season. They went down 6-2 to Peterborough last weekend, as they couldn’t replicate their strong performance against the Phantoms last month in which they had taken the game to overtime. Both the Mustangs goals in the 6-2 defeat to the Phantoms last Saturday were scored by Jake Stedman, while Lucy Gruber was awarded player of the game for an impressive game in net in the absence of Matthew Passmore. Things don’t get any easier for the Mustangs this weekend with the visit of the Hornets.

Bracknell’s league position of seventh looks worrying on first glance, and it wasn’t helped at all by losing at home to Solent and Slough in their last two outings. However the Hornets do have games in hand on all the teams ahead of them, so the situation isn’t as bad as it might look. This game against the Mustangs is a must-win for the Hornets if they want to keep up the fight for a top four spot, and they are definite favourites for this game. The addition of defenceman Kyle Goddard, who moves over from league leaders Chelmsford, makes Bracknell look stronger at the back, and they will hope he can help them make an upturn in form – starting with a win in Kent on Saturday.

Slough Jets vs Guildford Phoenix

The Jets look to continue their Cinderella story of a season on Saturday as they welcome Guildford to the Hangar. It’s now been ten straight wins for the Jets, with their latest win coming last weekend in a 4-3 thriller against Bracknell. Sam Talbot scored twice, Harry Harcup and Danny Rose scored once each, and Brett Shepherd made 36 saves in net as the Jets won the Berkshire derby and moved up to second in the standings. They are full of confidence right now, and on current form look set to take a top four spot – and therefore a playoff berth – ahead of at least one of the “big four” teams that dropped down from NIHL South 1 just under eighteen months ago.

The Phoenix are having a decent season to date, sitting in eighth place with six wins, one overtime loss and four regulation losses. Guildford’s last game was a 4-1 defeat to Solent last Saturday, with Jacob Rondeau-Smith scoring the lone goal for the Phoenix against a strong Devils side. This game is another tough one then for the Phoenix as they face the second placed Jets, and a win may be difficult to come by for the Surrey side; but with a home game to come the following evening against Bristol, the Phoenix will hope to get at least one win out of this weekend.

Expect the Jets to win their 11th straight game here.

Sunday

Basingstoke Buffalo vs Oxford City Stars

The Buffalo have only played six games this season so far, with every other team playing 10 or more to date. They played their first game in a month last Sunday, going down 10-3 in Romford to the NIHL2 Raiders. Oscar Evans scored two goals and Warren Jones bagged the other goal for the Buffalo, but they were soundly beaten as the Raiders outshot them 65-30 and took a comfortable win. This result gave the Buffalo a win-loss record of 2-4 and they currently lie 12th in the table.

Oxford suffered a painful defeat in Gosport last Saturday, losing 4-2 to the Solent Devils. This result meant the Stars dropped down to fourth in the table behind leaders Chelmsford, surprise package Slough, and the aforementioned Solent. The game against the Devils was a close one, with Oxford narrowly outshooting the Devils 42-40, but Oxford only managed to get two goals through Josh Florey and Lee Richardson, while Solent beat Stars netminder John Dibble four times.

The Stars can’t afford any more slip-ups if they want to keep their quest to retain their league title on track, and they are clear favourites in this game against a Buffalo side that are still finding chemistry as a team, despite it being December already.

Guildford Phoenix vs Bristol Pitbulls

Guildford’s second game in as many nights is a home clash with Bristol on Sunday. The Phoenix have a home win-loss record of 1-2 this season so far, but those two defeats did come against top three sides Chelmsford and Solent. The Phoenix have a run of three straight home games before the end of the calendar year, starting with this game against Bristol, and they will hope to take a win here against the inconsistent Pitbulls in order to start a charge up the table.

The Pitbulls currently lie sixth in the table, with a record of six wins, two overtime losses and five regulation losses. You never quite know what you are going to get with the Pitbulls: they won four of their first six games of the season, before losing five of their next seven. And they lost to 12th place Basingstoke while also defeating league leaders Chelmsford. Thus it is difficult to predict how the Pitbulls will play in any given game, but they are a team with a strong core that has been together for many years and with a lot of players who know how to put the puck in the net.

Either result is possible in this game between two sides that look fairly evenly-matched, so expect a good close game here.

Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats vs Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms

The NIHL2 Wildcats are still looking for their first points of the season as they welcome the Phantoms to the Link Centre on Sunday evening. Swindon suffered an expected defeat to league leaders Chelmsford last Sunday, going down 8-0 and not troubling the scorers. This was despite Chelmsford icing only 12 skaters in the game compared to Swindon’s 17. Wildcats netminder Liam Maguire had an impressive game between the pipes, stopping 59 of 67 shots to keep the scoreline from reaching double figures.

Peterborough beat Invicta 6-2 last weekend, taking their record to four wins from the last five games and moving up to ninth in the table. Conor Pollard and Nick Alley scored twice each against Invicta, with Clint Herring and Shaun Yardley scoring the other goals in the win. Swedish forward Ray Almgren didn’t score against Invicta, but scored a goal apiece in his first two games as a Phantom and will look to get back to scoring ways against the Wildcats.

The Phantoms are the favourites in this game, and should take both points back to Peterborough with them if nothing unexpected happens.


Fixture information

Saturday
17:00 Solent Devils vs Haringey Huskies
17:15 Invicta Mustangs vs Slough Jets
17:45 Slough Jets vs Guildford Phoenix

Sunday
18:15 Basingstoke Buffalo vs Oxford City Stars
18:15 Guildford Phoenix vs Bristol Pitbulls
18:15 Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats vs Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms


NIHL South 2 (Wilkinson) Standings

Posted in Weekend Preview

December 1st, 2018 by Laurence Thorn

This weekend is a busy one in NIHL South 2, with five games on the schedule for Saturday and three on Sunday.

Fourteen teams are in action across the weekend, with only Haringey not playing at all; while both Solent and the Raiders play two games each.

Saturday

Solent Devils vs Oxford City Stars

In what is probably the biggest game of the weekend, reigning playoff champions Solent host last season’s league winners Oxford in a clash of the champions. The Devils sit fourth in the table and are on a five game win streak, but are still recovering from two defeats suffered at the hands of Slough back in October. The Devils defeated Bristol 5-1 in their last game, with goals coming from Richard Facey (x2), Alex Murray, Ben Lock and Alexander Trendall; while Chico Cole had a relatively quiet night in net only facing 19 shots. He will likely have a lot more shots to deal with against goal-hungry Oxford. The Devils currently lie fourth in the table, two points behind Slough with a game in hand.

The Stars have won their last two games by a total score of 28-4, albeit against winless sides Swindon and Lee Valley. The points scoring is spread nicely throughout the Oxford side, with Joe Edwards, Michal Oravec (both 24 points), Matthew Lawday, Lee Richardson (both 19) and Josh Oliver (17) all putting up good numbers so far. The Stars have also conceded the least goals of any team in the league with 24, although they have played less games than some other teams. Oxford currently lie second in the standings, three points off Chelmsford ahead but with two games in hand.

A truly mouthwatering clash this one, with both teams packed full of offensive power. Expect a high-quality, intense game.

Lee Valley Lions vs Bristol Pitbulls

The Lions are still looking for their first win and points of the season as they welcome Bristol to the Den. In their last game two weeks ago, the Lions showed some small signs of improvement, albeit still going down 13-3 to reigning champions Oxford. Joe Berry scored twice in that match and Tom Hnilica got the other goal for the Lions. It’s been another tough season for the East London side to date, and there are more tough games to come with league leaders Chelmsford and reigning playoff champions Solent still to visit Lee Valley before Christmas. Before that, they have the Pitbulls to contend with.

Bristol followed up their surprising win over Chelmsford a few weeks ago with a 5-1 defeat in Gosport last weekend. Jack Hayes scored the lone Pitbulls goal against Solent, with Ross Miller busy in net facing 43 shots and conceding five goals. The Pitbulls are now eighth in the table after a promising start to the season, having lost five of their last six games. They will hope the winless Lions are the perfect springboard for them to get back to winning ways – and Bristol are strong favourites for this game.

Bracknell Hornets vs Slough Jets

The Hive plays host to a Berkshire derby on Saturday, with sixth placed Bracknell hosting the Jets who lie three places above them in the table. Bracknell have played less games than any side above them, and a win in this game would help their quest for a top four spot and therefore qualification for the playoffs. Bracknell’s last game was a 14-goal thriller against Solent, in which they ultimately went down 8-6 to the south coast side. In an ill-tempered game with a total of 96 penalty minutes being handed out, the Hornets got goals through Jakub Fojtik (x2), Steve Fisher, Danny Hughes, Carl Graham and Josh Ealey-Newman, but it wasn’t enough to take the win against the Devils.

The Jets are flying high meanwhile; they are on a nine game winning streak which they continued last Saturday with a 7-1 win over Swindon. Player-coach Lukas Smital had six assists on the night to move on to 55 points for the season in 11 games(!) while Sean Norris continued his recent strong form with a hat-trick to reach the 20 goal mark in just 10 games. Slough sit third in the table, five points ahead of Bracknell but having played two games more. Thus a win for the Hornets would close the gap between the two sides to just three points.

Either result is possible in this one – it should be a great exhibition of NIHL hockey.

Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms vs Invicta Mustangs

The Phantoms won their fifth game of the season last weekend against Haringey; but of those five wins, they have only managed two of them in regulation time. Saturday’s win against Haringey came in a shootout after 65 minutes could not separate the two sides, with Peterborough ultimately taking the win by a score of 5-4. Leon Groom (x2), Nick Alley and new Swedish forward Ray Almgren scored for the Phantoms before they held their nerve to best the Huskies in a shootout. Now, the Phantoms come up against another side who have taken them to overtime this season in the Invicta Mustangs.

The Mustangs took a point from their last encounter with Peterborough a month ago, with the scores locked at 1-1 until Nick Alley broke Mustangs hearts with the game winner at the 64:45 mark. In that game, Matthew Passmore made 68 saves in the Invicta net as he continued his strong season so far. In the two games since the Peterborough game, the Mustangs have lost twice to Guildford by a total score of 12-2. However they will be hoping the signings of veteran players Kevin Lake, Andy Smith and Dan Fudger will add experience and tactical nous to the team.

Peterborough are probably the favourites here – but having taken the Phantoms to overtime once, the Mustangs will have high hopes of doing it again.

Cardiff Fire vs Raiders NIHL2

The Fire announced a coaching change during the week, as player-coach Chris Douglas is replaced behind the bench by former Cardiff Devils defenceman Mark Smith. He inherits a team on an inconsistent run of form, a win-loss record of 5-5 reflecting the up and down nature of their season thus far. Their last game was a 7-3 win over a Swindon side yet to score a point this season, but before that the Fire had lost three of their last four –  albeit against strong sides Solent, Slough and Bracknell. The Fire are still in the mid-table mix and will hope to use this game to start to move back up the table,

The Raiders are on excellent form, winning six of their last seven with the only defeat in that time coming at Gosport. They made hard work of last weekend’s game against Swindon though, requiring a last minute go-ahead goal from Ewan Hill and an even later empty netter from Tommy Huggett to break Swindon hearts and bring home the two points, after a tight game in which the Raiders had 35 shots to the Wildcats’ 33. The trip to Cardiff is a tough one for sides based in the east, with teams usually travelling with relatively short benches. The size of the Raiders bench could determine the outcome of this game, with both sides looking relatively well-matched on paper.

Sunday

Guildford Phoenix vs Solent Devils

Seventh plays fourth on Sunday as Guildford welcome Solent to the Spectrum. The Phoenix have won their last two games, both against Invicta, and have an overall win-loss record on the season of 6-4. Andrew Hemmings and Oliver Denis both bagged braces in last weekend’s 7-2 win over Invicta, with Sean Richardson, Jared Lane and Taylor Wootton also chipping in with a goal each. The Phoenix keep adding to their line-up too, announcing the signings of d-men Harry Hatfield (returning from last season’s roster) and Declan Jones (a former Guildford junior and ex-Haringey player) in recent weeks.

The Devils will play their second game of the weekend after a big clash with Oxford the previous evening. That game will likely take something out of them so the Phoenix may fancy their chances in this one; then again, most of Solent’s roster have experience at higher levels where teams regularly play two games a weekend, so they should be able to deal well with back-to-back games. Guildford are a good side, but Solent have to be made slight favourites here based on the quality they have on their roster.

Raiders NIHL2 vs Basingstoke Bison

Less than 24 hours after a tough trip to Cardiff, the Raiders are back in action in Romford on Sunday as they host the Buffalo. With a lot of experienced players in their side mixed in with enthusiastic and energetic young players, the Raiders should be able to raise their game again on Sunday despite the long trip the day before.

The Buffalo have played by far the smallest number of games of any team in the league, playing just five games to date – nobody else has played less than nine. Their cause wasn’t helped by the cancellation of their last home game against Cardiff due to unsuitable ice, meaning that the Buffalo have only played one game since mid-October, and that was one month ago. That makes it very hard to rate their chances – they currently sit 13th with a win-loss record of 2-3 but they have a ton of games in hand to make up on the teams ahead of them.

With the Raiders on good form and playing impressive ice hockey, it will be tough for a Buffalo side that hasn’t played for one month to make a big impact in this game. The Raiders are definite favourites here.

Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats vs Chelmsford Chieftains

The Wildcats are still looking for their first win, but in their last few games have managed to keep the scorelines a bit more respectable that some games earlier in the season – in their last three matches, Swindon have lost by a total score of 19-7, compared to the 14-2 and 15-1 defeats they suffered to Oxford earlier in the campaign. As always with the Wildcats, it can be hard to predict how they will play as their line-up changes a lot from game to game; but they put in a good shift last Sunday at home to the Raiders, going down 5-3 after the Romford side scored three goals within the last three minutes of the game. The Wildcats goals in that game came from Jake Williams, Jack Goodchild and Eliot Randall; with Tyler Perre putting in another impressive performance in net.

They will come up against a Chieftains side who still lead the league, but who only have a three point lead over Oxford having played two games more. Chelmsford have lost two of their last three games, going down 3-1 to the aforementioned Oxford in a top of the table clash, and losing 3-2 in overtime to Bristol in their last game two weeks ago. After starting the season with many home games on the bounce due to their pending rink refurbishment, the campaign gets really tough for the Chieftains now as they face the prospect of a large number of consecutive away games. It will be fascinating to see how the team copes with that – nonetheless, they should be favourites in this game against a winless Swindon side.


Fixture information

Saturday
17:00 Solent Devils vs Oxford City Stars
17:30 Lee Valley Lions vs Bristol Pitbulls
18:00 Bracknell Hornets vs Slough Jets
18:15 Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms vs Invicta Mustangs
18:30 Cardiff Fire vs Raiders NIHL2

Sunday
17:30 Guildford Phoenix vs Solent Devils
17:30 Raiders NIHL2 vs Basingstoke Buffalo
18:15 Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats vs Chelmsford Chieftains


NIHL South 2 (Wilkinson) Standings

Posted in Weekend Preview

November 23rd, 2018 by Laurence Thorn

This weekend is a somewhat quiet one in NIHL South 2, with only five games on the schedule – four on Saturday and one on Sunday.

The battle between fourth placed Solent and sixth placed Bristol in Gosport on Saturday looks the pick of the ties, with Solent having won four on the bounce and Bristol knocking off league leaders Chelmsford in their last game.

Saturday

Solent Devils vs Bristol Pitbulls

As mentioned above, the Devils have won their last four games as they look to bounce back from twin defeats against Slough last month. The reigning playoff champions currently lie fourth in the table, two points behind Slough who are in third, and with a game in hand. The Devils have scored eight goals in each of their last three games, and will look to put that offensive firepower to good use against the Pitbulls. Solent’s last game was a feisty 8-6 away win over Bracknell at the Hive last Saturday, as a total of 96 penalty minutes were handed out and Devils forward Mitchell Murray also received a match penalty. He will therefore be banned for this game, but the Devils should still have enough forwards in their ranks capable of scoring enough goals to trouble Bristol.

The Pitbulls’ season can best be described as a rollercoaster; they have won five games, lost four in regulation and lost a further two in overtime to put them sixth in the table with 12 points from 11 games. They arrested a four game losing streak last Saturday with a huge 3-2 overtime victory over league leaders Chelmsford, netminder Ross Miller stopping 61 of 63 Chieftains shots to help the Pitbulls to take the win. Jamie Newton, Olly Shone and Steve Osman got the Pitbulls goals in that game. This will give them confidence coming into another game against a top four side, and Bristol will hope to repeat that magic against Solent on Saturday.

However, Saturday’s game will take place in Gosport, a rink in which the Devils are extremely hard to beat. Solent are definite favourites for this game, but if Miller stands on his head again in the Pitbulls net, this could be a close one.

Invicta Mustangs vs Guildford Phoenix

The Mustangs are down in 12th place, with their only victories to date coming against winless sides Lee Valley and Swindon; however they also took Peterborough to overtime a few weeks ago before ultimately going down to a 2-1 defeat, so that point will have definitely raised spirits in the Mustangs camp. Until last weekend that is, when they went to Guildford and were shut out by the Phoenix who took a 5-0 win. Mustangs netminder Matthew Passmore was busy as per usual, stopping 37 of 42 shots, but at the other end the Mustangs continued their trend of not being able to score enough goals. They will hope the re-activations of veteran players Kevin Lake. Dan Fudger and Andy Smith – all returning to the sport after a number of years out – can help with this lack of scoring.

Just one week after beating Invicta 5-0 at home, Guildford will hope to repeat the feat away from home on Saturday. Last weekend’s game was only Guildford’s second home game of the season, after playing seven in a row on the road to begin the season. Therefore it’s not too much of a surprise to see the Phoenix lying eighth in the table with 11 points from a possible 18. Once they get a run of home games under their belt, expect them to climb up the table and probably into the top six. In the aforementioned 5-0 game against Invicta, the Phoenix would have been buoyed by the fact that they won despite their top scorer Josh Abbott not being available to play; player-coach Andy Hemmings stepped up with a hat-trick for his side while Nick Minhinnick and Bailey Wootton also netted a goal apiece.

Expect the Phoenix to have a little too much firepower for the Mustangs again in this game, especially if Abbott is able to return. Guildford are definite favourites here.

Haringey Huskies vs Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms

Two sides whose seasons are not going to plan meet at Alexandra Palace on Saturday, with the Phantoms currently lying 10th and the Huskies just one place and two points behind.

The Huskies hoped to make a step forward from last season in which they finished 10th; however so far this season they have struggled, winning just three of their eleven games to date with two of those wins coming against winless Lee Valley. Their last game was a successful one, beating their London rivals 12-0 with Stephen Woodford scoring a hat-trick, import forward Gheorghe Dragomir adding five points and netminder David Wride celebrating a shutout. But the game directly before that was a tough 10-5 defeat against this weekend’s opponents Peterborough, showing how up-and-down the Huskies’ season has been so far.

That 10-5 win for Peterborough was one of the Phantoms’ rare bright spots this season as they have struggled for results. They lie 10th in the table having won four and lost six games; and two of those wins came in overtime as they were unable to defeat Bristol and Invicta in regulation. It must of course be stated that Peterborough have lost games to some tough teams – they have already lost to Oxford, Chelmsford, Slough and Solent – but they will not have been happy with their defeats to Guildford and Romford, as those are teams that the Phantoms would hope to be above in the table. This game against the Huskies could come at the right time for the Phantoms then, as they look to get their season back on track.

The Phantoms are slight favourites here, but the Huskies will hope that a home crowd can spur them on to take a victory against a Peterborough side that may be lacking in confidence.

Slough Jets vs Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats

After a weekend off, the Jets look to continue their fairytale season on Saturday as they welcome the winless Wildcats to the Hangar. Slough lie in third with 16 points from a possible 20, and have won their last eight games on the bounce after opening defeats to the two teams currently ahead of them in the league table, Oxford and Chelmsford. In those eight wins, the Jets have scored a total of 75 goals and conceded just 20, showing their strength at both ends of the ice. Up front, player-coach Lukas Smital leads the league in scoring with 49 points, while Sean Norris (34), Sam Talbot (25) and Daniel Rose (23) have all passed the 20-point mark already. Meanwhile in net, both Matt Smital and Brett Shepherd have save percentages above 91% and are secure backstops for the Jets.

The Wildcats continue to hunt for their first points of the season, having lost all nine of their games thus far, scoring just 13 goals in the process. They have also travelled to some away games with just eight or nine players, making life very tough for themselves; and as a result of a very changeable line-up from game to game, they don’t seem to have found a lot of chemistry in the team yet. Their top scorer so far is Eliot Randall with four goals, with Reed Sayers, Daniel Sullivan and Jason Warren chipping in with two each. At the other end of the ice, netminders Tyler Perre and Liam Maguire have faced a ton of rubber and have helped to prevent some scorelines from being worse than they actually were.

Looking at the respective points totals and goalscoring statistics, this looks like a mismatch. Expect the Jets to take a big win here.

Sunday

Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats vs NIHL2 Raiders

The Wildcats are back in action on Sunday, as they welcome the Raiders to Swindon. Although the Wildcats are still yet to win a game this season, at home they tend to ice a larger bench, at least giving themselves a better chance of success, As with the Slough game above, they will be reliant on forward Eliot Randall and netminders Tyler Perre and Liam Maguire against the Raiders, if they want to get something tangible from the game.

The Raiders are on good form right now, having won five of their last six games – and their only loss in that time was a tough away game in Gosport against the Solent Devils. Overall in the season, the Raiders have won six and lost three of their games, and the newly-formed team lies seventh in the table, just a point off Bracknell who are in fifth. The Raiders beat Peterborough 5-2 away from home last weekend despite missing import forward Kamil Kinkor, with goals coming from George Gell (x2), Matt Brown, Alan Lack and Ewan Hill, while Brad Windebank in net stopped 33 of the 35 shots he faced.

The Raiders will hope to take this momentum into Sunday’s game against Swindon; and even if the Wildcats do ice a large bench, the visitors still have to be considered the favourites in this game.


Looking for info on the NIHL1 South games? You can find the NIHL1 South preview HERE.


Fixture information

Saturday
17:00 Solent Devils vs Bristol Pitbulls
17:15 Invicta Mustangs vs Guildford Phoenix
17:30 Haringey Huskies vs Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms
17:45 Slough Jets vs Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats

Sunday
18:15 Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats vs Raiders NIHL2


NIHL South 2 (Wilkinson) Standings

Posted in Weekend Preview

November 17th, 2018 by Laurence Thorn

The NIHL South 2 season rolls on this weekend with seven games on the schedule – five on Saturday and one on Sunday.

The game between fourth placed Bracknell and fifth placed Solent on Saturday looks like the key game this weekend, while league leaders Chelmsford and their closest followers Oxford are also in action, both in away games.

Saturday

Bristol Pitbulls vs Chelmsford Chieftains

The Pitbulls took Slough to overtime at the Hangar last week – a superb achievement considering the way Slough have been destroying teams this season. Bristol ultimately came away with one point after a 5-4 loss, but this did allow them to move up to sixth in the league with ten points. Olly Shone scored a brace against the Jets to increase his goal tally for the season to nine, while Janne Virtanen and Steve Osman scored the other Bristol goals in that game. Ross Miller also impressed in net for the Pitbulls, stopping 52 of 57 shots he faced. He will need to be on top form again when Chelmsford come to town.

Chelmsford bounced back from their first loss of the season against Oxford two weeks ago with a tight 4-3 win in Guildford last weekend. After scoring 46 points in the ten games this season to date, captain Ross Brears was surprisingly kept off the scoresheet by Guildford – but Thomas Wilson, Grant Bartlett, Ross Cowan and James Ayling scored a goal each to help the Chieftains to a win-loss record of 10-1 on the season so far. This means they still lead Oxford by four points, but the Stars have two games in hand – so Chelmsford need to keep winning games to heap the pressure on the chasing pack.

Bristol are a tough side to beat, so this could be a tough test for the Chieftains. But if they can utilise all the firepower that they have in their line-up, Chelmsford should be favourites to come out on top here.

Guildford Phoenix vs Invicta Mustangs

After seven consecutive road games to start the season, Guildford finally played their first home game of the campaign against Chelmsford last Saturday, going down 4-3 to the league leaders. Taylor Wootton, Nick Minhinnick and player-coach Andrew Hemmings bagged a goal each but it wasn’t enough to knock off Chelmsford, while netminder James Hadfield was impressive for the Phoenix as he stopped 37 of the 41 shots he faced. The Phoenix now lie eighth in the table with nine points on the board, but have five home games between now and the end of the calendar year in which to try and move up the table – starting with Saturday’s game against the Mustangs.

Invicta gave a great account of themselves last weekend as they took Peterborough to overtime, ultimately going down 2-1 to the Phantoms but at least securing a point in the league standings. Harry Blake scored the Mustangs’ goal in that game, while goalie Matthew Passmore put in yet another strong performance in the Invicta net as he stopped 68 of the 70 Peterborough attempts on goal. The point gained from the Peterborough game puts the Mustangs 12th in the table on five points, with Haringey one point ahead of them but having played one game more.

Last weekend’s result will have given the Mustangs a lot of confidence coming into this one – and they will feel that if Passmore plays another blinder, they have a chance of winning the game. But the Phoenix are still the favourites in this game.

Bracknell Hornets vs Solent Devils

In a crunch clash at the Hive, fourth takes on fifth as the Hornets welcome the Devils.

Bracknell didn’t play last weekend, but two weeks ago took a huge 21-3 win over bottom club Lee Valley – their third win in a row and sixth of the season overall. Jakub Fojtik and Josh Ealey-Newman scored four goals each in that game, while Steve Fisher had five assists and Josh Ealey-Newman bagged a hat-trick. The Hornets have dropped just three points this season so far, losing to Oxford in regulation time and Cardiff in overtime, and will look to put daylight between themselves and Solent in the table with a win in this game.

The Devils are one point behind the Hornets in the table, having also lost two games this season – those two losses both coming against Slough in regulation time. And just like the Hornets, the Devils have also won their last three games in a row, with a comfortable 8-0 win over Cardiff last weekend seemingly restoring some of the Devils’ confidence after some tough games recently. Seven different players scored at least one goal against Cardiff, with only Alex Trendall bagging a brace of goals, and netminder Chico Cole impressed with a a 32 shot shutout.

This game is extremely hard to call, with both sides on winning streaks and both sides boasting lots of firepower in their ranks. Either side could win this one, but one thing’s for sure: the losing side will suffer a big blow to their playoff hopes.

Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms vs Raiders NIHL2

Two “second teams” collide in Peterborough on Saturday night, as the Phantoms host the Raiders. The Phantoms took a tight 2-1 overtime win over Invicta last weekend as their struggles this season continued; Nick Alley spared their blushes with the winning goal in overtime, after Jordan Liddell had scored their only goal during regulation time. Phantoms netminder Dan Lane was also extremely busy during the game, facing 66 shots from the Mustangs and making 65 saves. Apart from big wins against Lee Valley and Haringey, the Phantoms have struggled for wins this season, and face a tough task on Saturday as the Raiders come to town.

The Raiders took a comfortable 10-1 win against Lee Valley last Sunday, as George Gell impressed with 2+3=5 and Bailey Chittock also scored two goals. 16-year-old starlet Ewan Hill made his senior debut, scoring a goal and assisting on two others, while another 16-year-old who impressed was goaltender Brad Windebank who stopped 31 of 32 Lee Valley shot attempts. The Raiders are now seventh in the table on ten points; meaning they are two positions and two points ahead of the Phantoms. So this game is important for both sides as they look to establish themselves in the crowded mid-table.

This is another game that is hard to predict and in which the result could go either way – it could come down to which goalie has a better game.

Basingstoke Buffalo vs Cardiff Fire

The Buffalo have played the least games of any team in the league to date, only playing five games while Chelmsford for example have already played eleven. Thus it is hard to rate the Buffalo’s season so far – they lie in 13th place with two wins and three losses, but a run of victories could see them start to climb up the table. One of those wins was in Cardiff in the season opener, when Liam Coleman scored a hat-trick and Aaron Burton made 38 saves to lead Basingstoke to a 4-3 win over the Fire. The Buffalo will be hoping for a similar result this weekend.

The Fire have had a rollercoaster ride of a season, with some impressive wins mixed in with some big losses. They have lost their last three road games – being shut out twice in that time, 12-0 by Slough and 8-0 by Solent – and as a result have slipped down to tenth in the table. However the mid-table is very tight, so a few wins for the Fire could see them start to climb the standings again. The Fire will want to get revenge for the aforementioned season opener in which the Buffalo took a somewhat surprising win.

The Fire’s away form hasn’t been good recently, but the Buffalo have only played one game in the last month so could be rusty. Having said that, the one game they have played recently was a 7-5 win over Bristol. So the Buffalo are probably slight favourites here.

Sunday

Lee Valley Lions vs Oxford City Stars

Bottom side Lee Valley are still searching for their first win of the season, having suffered two losses on the road last weekend against Haringey and Romford. Tom Hnilica scored their only goal of the weekend against the Raiders on Sunday – it was the Czech forward’s fifth goal of the season, and he is definitely the Lions’ form player right now. But they continue to ship too many soft goals at the other end, conceding 22 in the two games last weekend. And their task doesn’t get any easier on Sunday as reigning champions Oxford come to town.

Oxford lie second in the table right now, four points behind Chelmsford but with two games in hand. Since suffering a shock loss to Guildford a few weeks ago, Oxford have shown their class to bounce back with a tight 3-1 win over Chelmsford and a 15-1 victory against Swindon. Darren Elliott bagged four goals against the Wildcats, with Lee Richardson scoring a hat-trick and both Tom Davis and Matthew Lawday scoring a brace of goals. They will look to keep up their scoring form when they visit East London on Sunday.

Oxford are odds-on favourites for this game, and expect a lot of goals for the reigning champions against the bottom placed side.

Cardiff Fire vs Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats

In their second game of the weekend, the Fire will be favourites as they welcome winless Swindon to Ice Arena Wales. Cardiff’s record at home this season is played two, lost two; but they are usually stronger at home than they are on the road, and their opponents Swindon travel to Wales without much confidence – and perhaps with a short bench.

Swindon are a very tricky team to predict; they turn up to some games with eight or nine players, while they can also raise a full roster for other games. That inconsistency in team selection is reflected in their position in the table, as they lie 14th with 0 points from nine games – only Lee Valley are below them on goal difference. Their last game was a tough 15-1 defeat at home against Oxford, with Reed Sayers scoring the lone Wildcats goal and netminders Tyler Perre and Liam Maguire having extremely busy nights, facing a total of 73 shots.

The Fire are favourites for this game, and it would be a surprise if the Wildcats could get anything from their trip to Cardiff.


Looking for info on the NIHL1 South games? You can find the NIHL1 South preview HERE.


Fixture information

Saturday
17:00 Bristol Pitbulls vs Chelmsford Chieftains
17:30 Guildford Phoenix vs Invicta Mustangs
18:00 Bracknell Hornets vs Solent Devils
18:15 Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms vs Raiders NIHL2
18:15 Basingstoke Buffalo vs Cardiff Fire

Sunday
17:30 Lee Valley Lions vs Oxford City Stars
18:00 Cardiff Fire vs Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats


NIHL South 2 (Wilkinson) Standings

Posted in Weekend Preview