Category: Weekend Preview

September 14th, 2018 by Nancy Carpenter

Competitive hockey is back in NIHL1 South with both the league and the Autumn Cup kicking off this weekend.  We take a quick look at some of the key games…

Also, remember that the first home and away fixture between each teams will also go towards the NIHL South Cup this season – so that competition will also be starting.

League (and NIHL South cup) action

After sweeping the challenge series last weekend with two relatively comfortable wins, Bees will be feeling confident going into their first league game where they once again face the Raiders. Watching the first leg of that series, I didn’t feel either team was even close to 100% yet so a properly competitive game could be a whole different thing. Bees were deserved winners of the game I watched, with sharper passing and a quicker transition up the ice – if they can repeat that and improve some already good chemistry in their lines further – they will be a force to be reckoned with this season. Both teams were full of skill and speed though and I think will definitely be in the mix for silverware.

Bees then travel to the Dynamos on Sunday. On paper, Invicta definitely look to have strengthened this season and new signings Martins Susters and the Bartlett twins all contributed heavily with hat tricks in the challenge games against Slough two weeks weekend, as did defensive import Ondrej Zosiak. How well the Mos will stack up against NIHL1 opposition is a question still to be answered, but I do think they will be much more competitive than last season.

Saturday also sees Streatham host Milton Keynes. Streatham had back to back challenge game losses against a very strong looking Swindon team last weekend while Thunder had two challenge wins – but against NIHL2 opposition in the form of Slough Jets.  Both teams have made some good signings during the summer and this will be a good test to see how they stack up against each other and how well the teams have gelled.

Streatham then travel to Romford to take on the Raiders on Sunday.  I see both Streatham and Raiders as being major challengers for the top 4 this season and I think this could be a really competitive match,  Games between these two old rivals are often feisty and I can see this one going the same way.

With all of these games counting towards the cup as well, teams are going to be especially keen to make a good start on the opening weekend and with every team having at least one challenge series, there should be little excuse for cobwebs!

Autumn Cup action

I’m going to start by saying I really like the new format of the Autumn Cup. For those who haven’t seen this – the six teams are split into 2 groups (North: Hull, Sheffield, Telford and South: Basingstoke, Peterborough and Swindon) but they only play the teams in the other group!  It’s a bit bonkers but I like it.  It cuts down on the number of times that the same teams play each other and gives fans a chance to see different teams come to visit. Even better, all group round games are scheduled for the first 4 weeks of the season and the semi-finals and final will be slotted in as midweek games in the near future – so it really will be an Autumn Cup this year!

All six teams are in action this weekend with double headers between Swindon and Hull, Basingstoke and Sheffield and Peterborough and Telford. A chance for early silverware is on and all three series could be very competitive.

Saturday  15th September
17:30 Streatham IHC vs Milton Keynes Thunder (NIHL1)
18:00 Bracknell Bees vs Raiders (NIHL1)
18:15 Swindon Wildcats vs Hull Pirates (Autumn Cup)
18:30 Basingstoke Bison vs Sheffield Steeldogs (Autumn Cup)
18:30 Peterborough Phantoms vs Telford Tigers (Autumn Cup)

Sunday 16th September
17:15 Invicta Dynamos vs Bracknell Bees  (NIHL1)
17:30 Raiders vs Streatham IHC (NIHL1)
17:30 Hull Pirates vs Swindon Wildcats (Autumn Cup)
17:30 Sheffield Steeldogs vs Basingstoke Bison (Autumn Cup)
18:00 Telford Tigers vs Peterborough Phantoms (Autumn Cup)

We’ll have live twitter from the league opener between Streatham and MK on Saturday and #gamedaylive updates across the whole league all weekend.

Posted in Weekend Preview

April 20th, 2018 by Laurence Thorn

It all comes down to this: the Final Four weekend in Bracknell. Four teams battling it out for the NIHL South 2 playoff crown, and the chance to be promoted to South 1 for next season. Oxford, Solent and Chelmsford have made it to this weekend as was to be expected – however the fourth participant is a bit of a surprise, as sixth placed Guildford knocked out third placed Bracknell last weekend to reach the Final Four.

In the first semi-final on Saturday, champions Oxford take on Chelmsford, who finished the season in fourth place; while in the second game, league runners up Solent will clash with the aforementioned Guildford.

The winning two sides will then battle it out in the final on Sunday, with the winner earning the chance to take automatic promotion to South 1 next season. It should be a thrilling weekend of action.

Oxford City Stars

League Record
Regulation wins: 22
OT wins: 1
OT losses: 0
Regulation losses: 3
Points: 46 (88.5%)
Goal difference: 168

Playoff record
QF: Beat Bristol Pitbulls 14-4

Oxford won the league title by just one point over Solent, but for the majority of the season they looked like champions elect; finally clinching the crown with a victory against the Devils on March 25th. The Stars scored a massive 223 goals in the regular season and conceded just 55 – meaning they had the best offence and the best defence in the league. They were also crowned NIHL2 National champions two weekends ago in Coventry as they beat the Sutton Sting 3-1.

The Stars uncharacteristically struggled in the quarter-final first leg against Bristol last Saturday, only taking the win by a score of 4-3. But they made up for that on Sunday, hammering the Pitbulls 10-1 in a feisty second leg.

Main scoring threat: Josh Oliver
After the departure of top scorer Kamil Kinkor for work and family reasons, more scoring pressure has fallen onto the shoulders of Oliver. The Oxford-born forward scored 31 goals and assisted on a further 21 in the regular season, giving him 52 points and putting him second on the team’s scoring list. He also added an assist in the game against Sutton, and 3+4=7 across the two legs against Bristol. On a team with a lot of offensive firepower, it’s hard to pick out just one forward to watch – but free-scoring Oliver could definitely be a big factor if Oxford want to win the playoff title this weekend.

Big on defence: Dominic Hopkins
Veteran blueliner Hopkins is “big on defence” both literally and metaphorically. The giant defenceman towers over most opponents and is an intimidation factor at the back; while he has also scored 17 goals and tallied 31 assists for 48 points in all competitions this season, showing that he can produce offensively for his team too. He was also voted onto the first line of the NIHL2 All-Star Team by players and coaches around the league, alongside team-mate Alex Staples who could also be mentioned in this category. The combination of Hopkins and Staples – two veterans who have a lot of higher level experience – has been a major factor in the Stars only conceding 55 goals this season in 26 games.

Between the pipes: Milan Ronai
Another key factor in the stingy Oxford backline is their netminding. There were some question marks over the Stars’ goaltending coming into the season, however young Hungarian goalie Ronai and fellow netminder Mark Duffy have stepped up to the plate and played a big role in their team securing the league title. Both goalies posted a save percentage of 91.3% in the regular season, showing that there really is nothing to choose between them – but Ronai saw more action between the pipes, stopping 320 shots in the regular season compared to Duffy’s 229. Ronai also started the game against Sutton, stopping 40 of 41 shots, while the two netminders started one game each in the quarter-finals. Time will tell who starts in Saturday’s semi-final, but the smart money would be on the 22-year-old Hungarian getting the nod.

Chelmsford Chieftains

League Record
Regulation wins: 20
OT wins: 0
OT losses: 0
Regulation losses: 6
Points: 40 (76.9%)
Goal difference: 112

Playoff record
QF: Beat Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms 17-5

After an up-and-down season, the Chieftains are on red hot form: they have won 13 of their last 14 games, and finished the league season in a very comfortable fourth place after a mid-season blip. Last weekend, they dominated Peterborough, knocking off the NIHL2 Phantoms by a massive aggregate score of 17-5 to reach the Final Four weekend. But now they come up against Oxford, who they lost to twice this season with a combined score of 15-4. That promises to be an altogether tougher task.

Main scoring threat: Grant Bartlett
One of the infamous Bartlett twins – alongside fellow Chieftains forward Cameron – who have terrorised defences for years, Grant missed almost half the season with a suspension picked up in the second game of the campaign. But since his return, he has been at the top of his game; ending the season with 28+27=55 from just 15 regular season games, while also adding six points in the two playoff games to date. Grant Bartlett made the second line of the NIHL South 2 All-Star Team despite the amount of games he missed, driving home the impact he has on the games that he does play in. The twins will need to be at their best if the Chieftains want to topple Oxford.

Big on defence: Donald Campbell
A former member of the Chelmsford Warriors NIHL2 side that was disbanded this season when the Chieftains dropped down a league, 19-year-old blueliner Campbell was snapped up by the Chieftains to help shore up their backline. And the former Chelmsford under-18 captain has shown his class at the back, helping the Chieftains to concede the third-least amount of goals in the league (only Oxford and Solent conceded less) while also adding 15 points offensively. Playing alongside experienced defenceman such as Robert Veares, Matt France and Danny Wright has helped Campbell’s game improve and he is now a key part of the Chieftains defence.

Between the pipes: Sonny Phillips
Phillips was one of the best netminders in NIHL South 1 last season, helping the Chieftains to a league and cup double as part of a netminding tandem with Ben Clements – who is now his head coach. Phillips followed the Chieftains down to South 2 this season where he became the #1 goaltender, and has shown his quality on numerous occasions this season; he posted a 91.4% save percentage with four shutouts during the regular season, while also stopping 77 of 82 shots in the quarter-final series against Peterborough. As with the Bartlett twins above, Phillips will also need to be at the very top of his game if the Chieftains are to stand any chance of surprising Oxford and reaching the playoff final.

Head-to-head results this season:
03-Dec: Chieftains 0 – Stars 4 (Oliver, Cox, Lawday, Hopkins)
28-Jan: Stars 11 (Josh Florey x3, Whillock x3, Kinkor x2, Oliver, Bundock, Hopkins) – Chieftains 4 (G. Bartlett x2, Leone, Ayling)

The two results this season were very clear-cut in the Stars’ favour, as they shut out the Chieftains in Essex before hammering them 11-4 in Oxford. However since the blow-out in Oxford, the Chieftains have lost just one of their last 14 games, so such a big victory would be a big surprise. Nonetheless, a victory for champions Oxford is the more likely result – Chelmsford will have to play a disciplined game of hockey in order to topple the Stars.

Don’s Prediction: Oxford 5-3 Chelmsford
Laurence’s Prediction: Oxford 7-4 Chelmsford

Solent Devils

League Record
Regulation wins: 22
OT wins: 0
OT losses: 1
Regulation losses: 3
Points: 45 (86.5%)
Goal difference: 106

Playoff record
QF: Beat Slough Jets 6-3

Solent have been one of the top teams in the league since the get-go, and put together a season that in other years would have warranted them first place in the league table. Instead, they fell short by one point as Oxford City took that crown. But after dispatching a plucky Slough Jets team in the quarterfinals, Solent are one step away from a potential rematch with Oxford in the final, with whom they split the season series. The thought of revenge over the Stars and a finals victory will surely be spurring on a talented Solent team as they enter the semi-finals.

Main scoring threat: Richard Facey

Richard Facey has been the star for Solent this season—and you could put up a good argument that he’s been the star of the league. He was selected Player of the Year in the 482days End of Season Awards, with 50% of his peers saying that he was indeed the best of the best. With 43 goals and 42 assists, he was the only player to score 40+ goals and notch 80+ points this season, and his form has been consistent all season. He kept right on in the quarterfinals, scoring a goal and picking up three assists against Slough.

Big on defence: Alex Cole

On defence, Solent have been superb, allowing just 58 goals, good for second-best in the league. Alex Cole has been a big reason why they’ve been so successful. A strong man on the blue line, he also picked up 18 points this season and captained the team in most games. He’ll want to keep his defence strong against Guildford. Solent gave up three or more goals just 10 times during the season, and the d-men will probably be disappointed that they gave up three to seventh-placed Slough in a playoff home game. Expect their blue-liners to come out hungry against the Phoenix.

Between the pipes: Christian Cole

Christian Cole has been a rock-solid last line of defence for Solent. Although he only had to face just under 600 shots this season thanks to his solid d-men, when he was tested, he rarely let anything through. He finished the regular season with a save percentage of 92.65, which means that 2017-18 has been Cole’s best season between the pipes in senior ice hockey. He was voted onto the second line in the 482days awards, and justly so.

Guildford Phoenix

League record:
Regulation wins: 14
OT wins: 1
OT losses: 1
Regulation losses: 10
Points: 31 (59.6%)
Goal difference: 24

Playoff record:
QF: Beat Bracknell Hornets 2-1

Guildford’s first season in the league has certainly been a success so far. After staying high up in the league amongst all the former South 1 teams for much of the season, they finished a very respectable sixth, and then knocked third-placed Bracknell out in the quarterfinals with a 2-1 win. Guildford is certainly a hockey town and they like to win, so their South 2 team will not be satisfied with an exit in the semi-finals—they’ll have their sights set on the ultimate prize.

Main scoring threat: Andrew Hemmings

Certainly much of their success is down to their experienced player-coach, former EPL forward Andrew Hemmings. The Phoenix are a young team, but Hemmings used his knowledge to make them a real contender all season. Incredibly, this was Hemmings first season as a coach at the senior level, and he scooped the 482days Coach of the Year Award after being overwhelming voted for by his peers. On the ice, he was 12th in the league in points, as he notched 15 goals and 33 assists.

Big on defence: Luke Tull

Luke Tull is one to watch for on defence if you’re heading to Bracknell for the semi-finals. He’s picked up 69 penalty minutes so far so he isn’t afraid to play hard and mix it up a bit on the ice. Plus he isn’t bad at creating some offence, either. He’s Guildford’s top points scorer from the blue line this season, notching 4+5.

Between the pipes: Jacob Stoodley

The Phoenix used a few netminders during the season, utilising Sam Calder and occasionally Harry Buckingham, but they stuck mainly with Jacob Stoodley. He faced 502 shots this season and stopped over 90% of them. He played pretty well against Solent on home ice, allowing five goals from 43 shots. But in the away fixture earlier in he allowed three goals from just 14 shots in the 33:05 he spent on the ice. He won’t want a repeat of that in the semis.

Head-to-head results this season:
03-Feb: Devils 7 (M. Murray x3, Pitts x2, Facey, A, Murray) – Phoenix 2 (H. Wootton, Hemmings)
10-Mar: Phoenix 3 (Abbott x2, B. Wootton) – Devils 5 (Campbell x2, Facey x2. M. Murray)

Solent and Guildford have met the requisite two times this season, and the bad news for the Phoenix is that they lost both those games. The two sides didn’t face off until February, when Solent played host to Guildford and sent them away without a point. Mitchell Murray’s hat-trick and Mark Pitts’ five-point evening lifted Solent to a 7-2 win as they extended their winning streak to 12 games. When they next met, Solent had just lost the week before to Bracknell, and Guildford were in the middle of a rough patch, although they had picked up a win in the preceding week. It was big match for both sides and Solent came away victorious again, as Facey scored twice in a 5-3 win.

Don’s Prediction: Solent 6-3 Guildford
Laurence’s Prediction: Solent 7-3 Guildford

Sat 3:15pm: Oxford City Stars vs Chelmsford Chieftains
Sat 6:45pm: Solent Devils vs Guildford Phoenix

Sunday 5:45pm: NIHL2 South Playoff Final

482days will have full twitter coverage of all three games on across the weekend.  If you’re attending the event, stop by and say ‘hi’! Just look for the yellow laptop. We’ll have pin badges to give out as always (if there is anyone left that doesn’t have one yet).

482days Expert Prediction Competition (after Sunday 15th April)

Don: 147 pts
Laurence: 141 pts

Our experts get 1 point for every correct result, and 3 points if they predict the exact score. (Although as they say: prediction is a mug’s game…)

Posted in Weekend Preview

April 13th, 2018 by Laurence Thorn

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! After a regular season that began on the 10th of September and ended seven months later on the 8th of April, it’s time for the NIHL South 2 playoffs to kick off this weekend with the four quarter-final ties. The winners of these four ties will go on to play at the Finals Weekend in Bracknell next weekend.

League champions Oxford will face Bristol over two legs, with both ties being played at Oxford. Saturday’s game will be Bristol’s home game at their adopted rink, while the Stars’ home game will take place on Sunday. Runners-up Solent will have a tough task in their quarter-final series as they take on an in-form Slough Jets side. This will be played over a single leg in Gosport due to ice time issues for Slough.

Bracknell and Guildford will face off in the third quarter-final, however this will also only take place over one leg; Guildford did not have home ice available on either Saturday or Sunday, so their home leg has been awarded 0-0. In the fourth and final quarter-final, Chelmsford and Peterborough will do battle. Chelmsford also had issues sourcing home ice for this weekend, but managed to resolve this by arranging to host their home leg in Romford.

Oxford City Stars (1) vs Bristol Pitbulls (8)

First leg @ Oxford on 14th April (Pitbulls home game)
Second leg @ Oxford on 15th April (Stars home game)

It’s a showdown in Oxford this weekend as the playoffs get underway, with the Stars and Pitbulls, who both play out of the Oxford Ice Arena, meeting in the quarterfinals.

Oxford (23 wins/3 regulation losses, 46 points) finished the regular season with the best record in the league, holding off a valiant challenge from Solent. The Stars played the Sutton Sting in the South 2 Championship Game last weekend, and secured a 3-1 victory as Milan Ronai made 40 saves. Oxford City have lost just three times this season, twice to Bracknell and once to Solent. That means that against clubs in places 4 to 14, they are undefeated; and quarterfinals opponents Bristol finished 8th, so the Stars should feel very confident.

Their defence has been rock solid this season, led by Dom Hopkins and Alex Staples, who both made the first line in the 482days NIHL2 End of Season Awards. Oxford allowed just 55 goals this season, with only Solent (58) coming close to matching their brilliance. Their potency on offence was even better, as they scored 223 goals, which was 37 more than their closest rivals, Chelmsford. The stats don’t lie. The Stars have lived up to their club nickname this season.

Bristol (10 wins/1 OT loss/14 regulation losses/1 game awarded 0-0, 22 points) sneaked into the playoffs by a mere skate edge, going through by virtue of holding the tiebreak over Cardiff. It all came down to the final weekend, as the Pitbulls had games against Bracknell and Peterborough remaining. The game against the Phantoms, for which they unable to raise a team after Peterborough couldn’t find ice soon enough, was awarded 0-0 and as such they picked up a point from that. Then Bristol played a crucial game against Bracknell and emerged with a stunning 7-4 victory that ensured them the final playoff place, despite Cardiff having a four-point weekend.

In addition to that win over Bracknell, the Pitbulls have two other wins this season over playoff teams: a last-gasp victory against Slough and a 3-1 victory over Chelmsford. Although Slough are arguably on a level with Bristol, the wins over the Hornets and Chieftains prove that Bristol are able to compete with the heavyweights if they give it everything they’ve got.

Results this season:
17-Sep: Stars 7 (Whillock x2, Edwards x2, Kinkor, Staples, Elliott) – Pitbulls 2 (Newton, Smith)
23-Dec: Pitbulls 5 (O. Shone x2, Coppock, M. Hargreaves, Thornhill) – Stars 7 (Oliver x3, Whillock, Kinkor, Edwards, Hedges)

There’s no real home ice advantage in either game, as Bristol play their home games at Oxford, and their supporters will surely travel en masse to both games. Looking at their previous match-ups, this contest may be more exciting than a 1st against 8th playoff might normally be. Oxford have been dominant this season, but Bristol ran them so close in the second meeting, which will give the Pitbulls confidence. However, although Bristol may give the Stars a fight, it’s hard to imagine any result other than an Oxford victory on aggregate.

Don’s Prediction: Oxford 11-4 Bristol (agg. score)
Laurence’s Prediction: Oxford 15-5 Bristol (agg. score)

Solent Devils (2) vs Slough Jets (7)

One leg only @ Solent on 15th April

Solent and Slough will play a winner-takes all game on Sunday in Gosport after Slough’s home game was declared 0-0 due to ice being unavailable.

Solent (22 wins/1 OT loss/3 regulation losses, 45 points) will consider themselves favourites in this game, and they can point to their record to show why. They finished second in the league, losing out to Oxford City by a solitary point. Solent’s losses were few and far between, and they were sprinkled throughout the season, so they can say with pride that they never had a serious loss of form for a period of time, unlike some other high-ranked clubs like Peterborough and Bracknell.

Solent’s brilliant season is down to the contributions of many of their players, but Richard Facey was a real standout. He scored over 40 goals and notched over 40 assists during the season, and scooped up the 482days Player of the Year Award. Solent’s defence was phenomenal this season, and part of that was thanks to netminder Christian Cole and his save percentage of 92%. This is a team loaded with talent and they will want to win it all in the playoffs.

Slough (12 wins/14 regulation losses, 24 points) are no push-overs, though. Although they finished five places and 21 points behind Solent in the table, the Jets are a strong team and they’ve picked up a few upset wins this season. They defeated Chelmsford, Peterborough and Bracknell, and who is to say that Solent won’t be their fourth big scalp of the season? The one bit of bad news for Slough, though, is that all those upsets came at home, and their home game in the playoffs has been wiped off the record, so they have to do this upset on the road. Player-coach Lukas Smital will need to draw on all his experience to get this Jets team ready for a tough match.

A word on the Jets 0-0 home “result” is probably necessary. Slough have been playing out of a temporary arena all season while waiting for their old home to be renovated. The replacement rink closed after the regular season, and unfortunately the renovated ice rink has not yet been okayed for use. The situation was beyond the Jets’ control, and so the game has been officially announced as 0-0.

Results this season:
14-Oct: Jets 2 (Smital, Tyrrell) – Devils 6 (Rudkin x2, Pitts, Trendall, Campbell, Facey)
06-Jan: Devils 14 (Facey x3, Campbell x3, Pitts, A. Cole, Rudkin, Crockford, McCormick, Goddard, A. Murray, Hocquigny) – Jets 3 (Lindgren x2, Dreelan)

So how does this one pan out? Really, it will probably be one of two things. Solent will win big, or Slough will secure a very narrow upset. But looking at that 11-goal loss last time the Jets travelled to face Solent, and remembering Richard Facey’s goal-scoring form and Slough’s slightly suspect away from, it’s probably going to be Solent who progress into the semi-finals.

Don’s Prediction: Solent 10-5 Slough
Laurence’s Prediction: Solent 8-5 Slough

Bracknell Hornets (3) vs Guildford Phoenix (6)

One leg only @ Bracknell on 14th April

A fascinating playoff tie awaits as Bracknell, who finished in third place but struggled for form late in the season, face surprise package Guildford – the Phoenix finished sixth in their very first season in the league after a very impressive campaign.

Unfortunately due to ice time issues at Guildford, this tie will also be played over one leg only, with the game taking place at the Hive on Saturday.

Bracknell (21 wins/1 OT loss/4 regulation losses, 43 points) looked on course to challenge Oxford and Solent for the top two spots in the league, at one point having multiple games in hand on both of them. But four losses in the last seven games of the campaign – having won 18 of their first 19 games(!) – derailed the Hornets’ title charge and in the end the Berkshire side finished third, two points behind Solent and three behind champions Oxford.

The Hornets will hope to get their momentum back in this playoff tie, and will try to use home ice to their advantage against the Phoenix. Bracknell only lost one game all season, and that was on the final weekend of the campaign against Bristol as the Pitbulls successfully qualified themselves for the playoffs. Danny Hughes’ side will hope to be able to write this off as a blip and return to their strengths against Guildford, and will need the likes of Steve Fisher and Josh Ealey-Newman to be firing if they want to knock off a strong Guildford side.

Guildford (15 wins/1 OT loss/10 regulation losses, 31 points) entered the season as an unknown package, with an average age of just 21 in the team. But the newcomers had a fantastic campaign, with a playoff spot never looking in doubt. They ended the campaign in a strong sixth place, led by impressive player-coach Andy Hemmings who was voted Coach of the Year by his peers.

Also impressing for the Phoenix were young forwards Josh Abbott and Bailey Wootton, who both bagged 21 goals and helped their side to some big wins. However one thing Guildford could not do was win a game against the top five sides in the league; 10 of the Phoenix’ 11 defeats came in direct games against the “big five”, including 4-2 and 5-3 defeats to Bracknell.

Results this season:
18-Nov: Hornets 4 (Tarczycki, S. Fisher, Hind-Pitcher, B. Ealey-Newman) – Phoenix 3 (H. Wootton, Adeniran-Adams, Richardson)
30-Dec: Phoenix 3 (B. Wootton, H. Wootton, Abbott) – Hornets 5 (J. Ealey-Newman x3, Milton, Hughes)

With this tie taking place over just one leg, anything can happen. Bracknell are not on the best of form, but will have home advantage. Guildford really have nothing to lose – they have played a fantastic season whatever the outcome – but they would love to reach the Final Four in their first season in the league. This one is tough to call but Bracknell probably have the edge.

Don’s Prediction: Bracknell 5-3 Guildford
Laurence’s Prediction: Bracknell 6-4 Guildford

Chelmsford Chieftains (4) vs Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms (5)

First leg @ Peterborough on 14th April
Second leg @ Romford on 15th April (Chieftains home game)

An intriguing two-legged tie awaits between the fourth and fifth placed sides in the league, as the on-form Chelmsford Chieftains square off against a Peterborough side that was undefeated in March but saw their last two regular season games cancelled.

This quarter-final tie was also not immune to the ice time issues that have plagued two of the other quarter-finals, with Chelmsford unable to use their Riverside rink for the second leg. Luckily, the Chieftains were able to find ice time at the Sapphire in Romford, so they will host the second leg there.

Chelmsford (20 wins/6 regulation losses, 40 points) had an odd start to the campaign, not playing many games before Christmas which left them with a big backlog of fixtures to complete in the later stages of the season. After winning six of their first seven games, the Chieftains went on a horrendous run of four defeats in their next seven which took them right out of title contention. However they bounced back from February onward, winning 11 of their last 12 games to cement fourth place in the standings.

A lot of the scoring responsibility for the Chieftains falls on the shoulders of the Bartlett twins Grant and Cameron. Both were banned for their involvement in controversial incidents against the Invicta Mustangs in the second game of the season – Grant for significantly longer than his brother – but both bounced back from that to finish in the top eight in the league scoring with 55 points each. Grant managed those in just 14 games – a rate of nearly four points per game.

Peterborough (17 wins/7 regulation losses/2 games awarded 0-0, 36 points) started the season like a dream, the reigning NIHL South 2 treble winners winning their first seven on the bounce including their first game against a former NIHL1 side as they knocked off Solent in OT. However six defeats in their next nine games – all coming against former NIHL1 sides – saw the Phantoms drop down the table.

They recovered as the season went on, winning seven of their last eight with only a defeat away at Slough slowing them down. Unfortunately for the Phantoms, their last two games of the season were cancelled and awarded as 0-0 due to a lack of ice time, so they come into this tie having not played in three weeks.

Results this season:
09-Dec: Phantoms 1 (Herring) – Chieftains 7 (Brears x2, France x2, Wilson, Mills, C. Bartlett)
17-Dec: Chieftains 8 (Brears x2, Leone x2, C. Bartlett, Oravec, Dervish, Ayling) – Phantoms 3 (Bavin, Moore, Pentecost)

The Chieftains dominated the two games between the sides this season, and that was without Grant Bartlett who was serving his lengthy ban. With both of the Bartlett twins in the team together and on good form, it will be very tough for Peterborough to get the best of the Chieftains over two legs in this tie.

Don’s Prediction: Chelmsford 10-8 Peterborough (agg. score)
Laurence’s Prediction: Chelmsford 12-7 Peterborough (agg. score)

Fixture information

17:15 Bristol Pitbulls vs Oxford City Stars (1st leg)
18:00 Bracknell Hornets vs Guildford Phoenix (only leg)
18:30 Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms vs Chelmsford Chieftains (1st leg)

17:00 Solent Devils vs Slough Jets (only leg)
17:15 Chelmsford Chieftains vs Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms (2nd leg)
18:15 Oxford City Stars vs Bristol Pitbulls (2nd leg)

NIHL South 2 (Wilkinson) Final League Standings

We’ll have updates on scores and scorers from all the games as we get the information. Going to a game? We’d love to know what’s happening – tweet us @482days with your updates!

482days Expert Prediction Competition (after Sunday 8th April)

Don: 144 pts
Laurence: 138 pts

Our experts get 1 point for every correct result, and 3 points if they predict the exact score. (Although as they say: prediction is a mug’s game…)

Posted in Weekend Preview

April 6th, 2018 by Nancy Carpenter

So, the final weekend of NIHL1 action is finally upon us. For the first time since the league moved to the ‘NIHL’ league name, we’ll have a national playoff champion. Quite exciting really!

4 teams left in the competition as we all head to Coventry – so without further ado, let’s take a look at the runners and riders!

Basingstoke Bison

League Record
Regulation wins: 26
OT wins: 2
OT losses: 0
Regulation losses: 4
Points: 56 (87.5%)
Goal difference: 98

Playoff record
QF: Beat Invicta Dynamos 13-1
SF: Beat London Raiders 10-4
F: Beat Peterborough Phantoms 3-2

League and Southern Playoff champions, the Bison are riding high on success and are looking to make this into a treble-winning season. They have a small squad with only 15+2 playoff eligible players to bring with them – but there is absolutely no dead wood on that team and they have strength and depth through all 3 lines.

Main goal threat: Tomas Karpov
NIHL1 South’s top scorer with 35+41 from 36 games across the league and playoff campaigns. Karpov may be one of the most under-estimated players in the league. Maybe it’s because he’s been with the Bison for years so when he scores 3 or 4 goals in a weekend it’s not exactly a surprise!
Honorable mention in this category also goes to Roman Malinik who has been immense in the playoffs with 6+5 in the 6 playoff games to add to his tally of 10+26 from 25 league games.

The playmaker: Ivan Antonov has been playing 2nd tier hockey for quite a few years now so sometimes you forget he’s only 20! Incredibly hard-working 2-way player who creates chances with a great combination of a big forecheck and silky hands.

Big on defence: Dan Scott
In his first full season with Bison, Scott has been a huge presence on the blue line. Strong on and off the puck, hits hard and has a real eye for a breakout pass.

Between the pipes: Dean Skinns
Home grown netminder with bags and bags of high level experience. He’s been a solid #1 for the team again this season with a combined 92.4% save percentage across the league and playoff campaign.

Captain’s Log –  He’re what Aaron Connolly has to say:
“Spirits are high in the Bison camp but our preparation hasn’t changed coming in to final four weekend. We have stayed focused and worked hard throughout the year which seems to be working for us. Coventry is always such a special weekend and there is nothing like the buzz leading up to it. I hope everyone involved has a great weekend, especially the teams/supporters who haven’t been before.”

Peterborough Phantoms

League Record
Regulation wins: 23
OT wins: 4
OT losses: 2
Regulation losses: 3
Points: 56 (87.5%)
Goal difference: 90

Playoff record
QF: Beat Milton Keynes Thunder 11-3
SF: Beat Swindon Wildcats 9-6
F: Lost to Basingstoke Bison 2-3

Twice the bridesmaid this season for Peterborough Phantoms. They lost out on the league title by the narrowest of margins and then lost the Britton playoff final by just one goal. They’ll be hoping this is their time to shine. Missing two of their big attacking options in Owen Griffiths and Darius Pliskauskas for some/all of the playoff campaign didn’t help either – no word yet on whether either will be able to play this weekend. Don’t count them out though!

Main goal threat: Nathan Salem
A new arrival on the team this season, Salem has quickly become a fan favourite in Peterborough with his hard working, physical play. He’s shown he;s clearly got an eye for goal as well with 27+31 in 37 league and playoff games.

The playmaker: Leigh Jamieson
Another new face for the team this season, Jamieson has been a real force to be reckoned with – big and strong on the puck, he another of those who knows how to pick out a team-mate with a great pass as his 37 assists this season show. 12 goals says he can score himself as well.

Big on defence: Tom Norton
Incredibly strong positional d-man who isn’t flashy but rarely makes a mistake. He’s got a great eye for a pass as his 20 assists this season will attest. He’s not exactly goal shy either, with 8 goals from the blue line – but his real strength is in his own zone where he’s tough as hell to get past.

Between the pipes: Euan King
Solid netminder who is simply Mr Reliable – he may not be big and flashy but he rarely lets in a soft goal either. A mid-season addition to the team, he’s had a very strong season back in his home town with a combined 93.1% save rate across the league and playoff campaign for the Phantoms.

Captain’s Log –  He’re what James Ferrara has to say:
“Last week was disappointing, two good teams played the game the right way and it could’ve gone either way. As we have already shown, we fight until the end and we have the biggest trophy of the year in our sights. We have prepared well this week and have experience of what it takes to be successful at Coventry. We are determined to show everyone how great we can be as a team, and want to win silverware for our fans, even more so having been so close on other occasions already this season – that just makes us more dangerous. Coventry is always an exciting weekend, I hope everyone has a good time.”

Sheffield Steeldogs

League Record
Regulation wins: 28
OT wins: 3
OT losses: 1
Regulation losses: 4
Points: 63 (87.5%)
Goal difference: 119

Playoff record
QF: Beat Billingham Stars 13-6
SF: Beat Solihull Barons 9-5
F: Lost to Telford Tigers 3-8

Winners of the Northern league this season after coming out on top of the big end of season showdown, the Steeldogs are on the hunt for a second trophy. A team in every sense of the word – they may not have the showiest players but they do have very solid systems and a real ethos of playing for each other.

Main goal threat: Milan Kolena
Steeldogs top scorer this season with 40+43 from 41 league and playoff games this season. Kolena has great hands and can skate through the defence well. Has had a great playoffs so far with 4+7 from the 6 Steeldogs games.

The playmaker: Ashley Calvert
A strong supplier but also one who pops up to score himself on a regular basis as his 22+29 in 39 games shows. Buys into the team systems well and is usually found in the right place at the right time. 

Big on defence: Ben Morgan 
In with a shout of getting the ‘playmaker’ tag instead, defenceman Ben Morgan is the sort of guy everyone wants in their team. Strong in defence and a great supplier on the transition as his 42 assists this season show. He can score a bit too with 11 goals to add to his tally this season.

Between the pipes: Dmitri Zimozdra
Russian born but Sheffield trained, 29 year old Zimozdra re-joined the Steeldogs from local rivals Sutton Sting over the summer. A superb netminder who moves really well across the net and it’s going to take a lot of work to pull him out of position.

Captain’s Log –  He’re what Lewis Bell has to say:
“The run up to the Coventry weekend has been a little up and down really, without really reaching our best level until the final game at home against Telford. I think we suffered a little bit of a hangover after winning the league title and have just had to get our focus back, but we are back on track now after a good performance at home and will be having a good week of practice leading into Coventry. The boys are all really excited for the weekend, and it will be a lot of the lads’ first trip to the Coventry weekend so hopefully we can make it a memorable one and add another trophy to the league title.”

Telford Tigers

League record:
Regulation wins: 26 (including one for double-points),
OT wins: 1
OT losses: 2
Regulation losses: 6
Points: 56 (77.8%)
Goal difference: 135

Playoff record:
QF: Beat Whitley Warriors 5-2 (one game only)
SF: Beat Hull Pirates 9-8
F: Beat Sheffield Steeldogs 8-3

Telford Tigers had a bit of an up and down season. They came a slightly distant third in the league, 7 points off the top. But come playoff time they came good and a huge 6-0 win in the first leg of the final was more than enough to see them home despite losing the second leg by a goal.

Main goal threat: Jason Silverthorn
The 38 year old Canadian belies his age on the ice. With nearly 3 points per game (47+50 from 35 league and playoff games) in the league this season he’s shown he is still going strong.

The playmaker: Rick Plant
Home town hero Plant is another at the top end of the age bracket but with a whopping 59 assists to add to his 21 goals from 37 games this season, he uses his experience well.

Big on defence: Jonathan Weaver
A regular in the GB senior team until last year, Weaver has been a huge asset to the team again this season, bossing the defence and chipping in 15+36 from his 26 league and playoff games this season.

Between the pipes: Denis Bell
Impressive youngster who is being tipped as one who’s likely to get a GB senior call up in the future. Across the league and playoffs he has averaged a 92.6% save rate.

Captain’s Log –  He’re what Jason Silverthorn has to say:
The team is really excited about getting to Coventry this season, coming off a tumultuous summer it’s taken a lot of hard work from countless people both on and off the ice to get us to this point! Our core group are especially looking forward to it as we haven’t yet won the playoff weekend, with all the league changes it is still the second tier which means we are hungry to add that trophy.
Been able to win the North Playoff against some stiff competition in Whitley, Hull & then finally the league champions Sheffield and all the ups & downs that went along with it will have us ready for this weekends competition both mentally & physically. It will be important to have good uptempo skates this week to allow is to come in with lots of confidence in both our structure and overall game at this point.

Sat 1pm: Telford Tigers vs Peterborough Phantoms
Sat 5pm: Basingstoke Bison vs Sheffield Steeldogs

Sunday 1pm: NIHL2 National Championship game (Oxford City Stars vs Sutton Sting)
Sunday 5pm: NIHL1 National Playoff Game

482days will have full twitter coverage of all four games on across the weekend with our usual brand of slight irreverent commentary in between showing off our lovely goal notifications (thanks to the very talented David Strover).

We’ll also have a special #predictionisamugsgame (#piamg) competition just for those attending the weekend. You can find full details of that here (LINK) as well as in the playoff program.

Looking for the NIHL2 South weekend preview – you can find that here (LINK) where our regular NIHL2 correspondents Don McDermott and Laurence Thorn take a look at the final league games of the season as well as the NIHL2 National championship game.

Posted in Weekend Preview

April 6th, 2018 by Laurence Thorn

The final weekend of NIHL South 2 league action is upon us, with five league games on the schedule. The battles for second and third in the league, and for the final playoff spot, are both wide open – so it promises to be an exciting weekend of action.

Three games are scheduled for Saturday. The Solent Devils, currently second in the league, host champions Oxford in a big tie. Another important game sees third placed Bracknell welcoming eighth placed Bristol – who are hoping to cement a place in the playoffs – to the Hive. And yet another game with big playoff implications takes place in North London as Haringey in ninth welcome Cardiff who currently sit in 10th. One additional game was scheduled between winless Lee Valley and the Swindon Wildcats, but the Wildcats are not travelling and the Lions have been awarded the game 5-0.

Following the news that Chelmsford have also been awarded a 5-0 win, this time against Basingstoke as the Buffalo could not raise a team, Sunday now has just two games scheduled. Cardiff will look to seal a place in the playoffs as they welcome Swindon, while Lee Valley will hope to take their last chance to win a game this season, as they play against the Invicta Mustangs. The game planned for Sunday between Peterborough and Bristol has been awarded as 0-0, with each side gaining a point.

There is one more game scheduled for Sunday however – the NIHL2 Championship Game between the Oxford City Stars, champions of South 2, and their equivalents from the North, the Sutton Sting. The game will take place in Coventry as part of the NIHL1 Finals Weekend.


Solent Devils vs Oxford City Stars

A few weekends ago, it looked like the league title race may come down to this game as these two sides were locked in a title battle. However it was not to be – Oxford have already clinched the league title. This game is still a crucial one for Solent though, as they look to secure second place in the league – and they will do this with a win.

Solent (21 wins/1 OT loss/3 regulation losses, 43 points) have had an impressive season, staying in the title hunt for a long time until faltering towards the end of the campaign. Two losses in their last five games, away to title rivals Bracknell and Oxford, killed their title chances; but a big 8-2 home win over Bracknell a few weeks ago means Solent’s destiny is in their own hands. Win on Saturday, and the runners-up spot will belong to the Gosport-based side. That will be no easy task, but with the likes of Richard Facey – who has dominated league scoring this season with 42+41=83 in just 25 games(!) – as well as player-coach Alex Murray (20+46=66) and Canadian import Drew Campbell (26+31=57), the Devils have three of the league’s top six scorers, and are in the hunt to win every single game.

Oxford (23 wins/2 regulation losses, 46 points) clinched the league crown two weekends ago with the aforementioned home win over the Devils, after a season in which they have only lost two games and have scored by far the most goals of anyone. 223 goals in 25 games is a hefty number, and the City Stars were deserving league champions on the balance of the season. Still, they have two more pieces of silverware to win yet – the NIHL2 Championship game against Sutton on Sunday, and the playoffs which start next weekend. A reminder: only the team that wins the playoff title will be promoted to NIHL South 1. So as nice as the league title is, the Stars still have a lot left to achieve before they can call this a perfect season.

Solent will be desperate to win this game and secure second in the league, while Oxford may look to conserve some energy for the game in Coventry the next day, which faces off just 20 hours after this one. The Devils are also very hard to beat at home – they have lost just once in Gosport all season – so a Solent win is perhaps the most likely result here.

Don’s Prediction: Solent 3-4 Oxford (OT)
Laurence’s Prediction: Solent 6-4 Oxford

Haringey Huskies vs Cardiff NIHL2 Fire

One playoff spot it still up for grabs, with three teams fighting for it. Two of them—Haringey and Cardiff—will meet on Saturday at the Alexandra Palace.

Haringey (9 wins/1 OT loss/15 regulation losses, 19 points) have been sitting in the coveted eighth-place position for seemingly ages now, but it’s not about where you’ve been—it’s all about where you are when the season ends. That eighth place was taken away from them on Friday as Bristol were awarded a point for their abandoned fixture against Peterborough. The Huskies are now one point behind Bristol and one ahead of Cardiff, with the latter having two games to play while both the Huskies and Pitbulls have just the one fixture remaining. The Huskies come into the weekend with a four-game losing streak; however those games were against some tough opponents.

Cardiff (9 wins/15 regulation losses, 18 points) know that if they win this game, they can knock Haringey out of competition, but the sword cuts both ways. If the Fire leave the Ally Pally pointless, they can start planning for next season, regardless of what happens on Sunday in their game against Swindon.

Last time Haringey and Cardiff met was in South Wales in early April, and although Haringey had a fast start, scoring twice in the first period, the Fire rallied to win 3-2. This could be another close one, as both teams will really be going for it.

Don’s Prediction: Haringey 4-5 Cardiff (OT)
Laurence’s Prediction: Haringey 5-4 Cardiff (OT)

Bracknell Hornets vs Bristol Pitbulls

Another important matchup takes place in Bracknell as the season draws to a close. The Hornets need a mammoth win to send them into the playoffs with some momentum, and Bristol are trying hard to make the playoffs.

Bracknell (21 wins/1 OT loss/3 regulation losses, 43 points) have been poor over the last month. Sorry Hornets fans, but we must be blunt. Losing to Peterborough might be excusable, but the Hornets were thrashed by Solent and upset by Slough. A big win over Invicta was nice, but narrow home wins over Chelmsford and Cardiff don’t exactly fill us with confident here at 482days. For a team in third that has been amazing all season, this is a rather lacklustre finish to the season.

Bristol (9 wins/1 OT loss/14 regulation losses/1 game awarded 0-0, 20 points) have pulled themselves back into contention for a playoff place, but they need to take an upset win against Bracknell to guarantee the last playoff spot ahead of Haringey and Cardiff. Their other planned fixture against Peterborough has been awarded 0-0, with the Pitbulls gaining one point that puts them eighth coming into the weekend, but that place is not secure with Haringey and Cardiff both still in contention. So this is a big game for Bristol as they look to cement a post-season place.

Bracknell visited Bristol on 18 February and left with a 9-5 win. Although the Hornets have been off the boil recently, and the Pitbulls will be fighting hard for the upset, it’s hard to see the Hornets losing this one.

Don’s Prediction: Bracknell 8-5 Bristol
Laurence’s Prediction: Bracknell 6-3 Bristol


Sutton Sting vs Oxford City Stars
(NIHL2 Championship Game in Coventry)

As part of the NIHL1 Finals Weekend in Coventry, the NIHL South 2 champions Oxford will square off against the NIHL North 2 winners Sutton in a one-off NIHL2 Championship Game. It will have no bearing on which teams are promoted in their respective leagues, but it will nonetheless be fascinating to see how the champions of the two leagues stack up against each other. And who doesn’t want another shiny bit of silverware to add to the collection?

Sutton (NIHL N2 Record: 28 wins/3 OT losses/5 regulation losses, 59 points) are a new team to us here in the South, but a glance at their season suggests that they were worthy champions – they took the North 2 title by seven points ahead of Widnes, losing only five games in regulation all season (Widnes lost nine). They also had the fewest penalty minutes in the league with an average of just 13.75 per game, showing that discipline can be a big part of winning championships. They were not huge goalscorers, scoring only the joint-fourth highest number of goals, but relied on a strong defence as well as goaltender Warren Gilfoyle who impressed with a 90.27% save percentage and four shutouts. Scoring-wise, their top two forwards were Joseph Colton and Scott Morris, who both bagged 30 goals as they helped the Sting to the league title.

Oxford, on the other hand, have scored the most goals in NIHL South 2 by some distance – netting 42 more times than the next best team Chelmsford in the same number of completed games. Oxford’s main scoring threat for most of the season was import forward Kamil Kinkor, who bagged 38 + 37 = 75 in 23 games before leaving the side recently due to family and work commitments. However they have great depth in their forward ranks, with Josh Oliver also hitting the 30 goal mark and both Joe Edwards and Michael Whillock scoring more than 20 goals. A big (literally) mention has to also go out to giant defenceman Dom Hopkins, who has scored 44 points from the blueline this season but has also been a rock at the back. Goaltending-wise, young Hungarian netminder Milan Ronai has impressed with a 91.25% save percentage and four shutouts, while Mark Duffy has claimed two shutouts of his own and stopped 90.72% of the shots he has faced.

This is a truly fascinating game of ice hockey between two sides that have not faced each other all season long. Thus it is very hard to predict how it will go. Oxford’s better goalscoring record – 8.92 goals a game as compared to Sutton’s 6.05 per game – could be a key factor here, with the Stars perhaps slight favourites.

Don’s Prediction: Sutton 4-6 Oxford
Laurence’s Prediction: Sutton 4-6 Oxford

Lee Valley Lions vs Invicta Mustangs

Lee Valley and Invicta finish their seasons on Sunday as the Mustangs travel to the Den. The last time these two sides met, the Mustangs came out of it with a narrow OT win in Kent back in November.

The Lions (3 OT losses/20 regulation losses/1 game awarded 5-0/1 game awarded 0-0) had hoped for two chances to get an elusive win this weekend, but Swindon forfeited Saturday’s game which leaves the East London side with just one opportunity to do it, against Invicta. The Lions have scored the least amount of goals of any team in the league with 63, with the next-lowest mark being Invicta’s 69. Matt Brown has been on fire for the Lions recently however, netting 5+3=8 in their last seven games. If he can continue that strong form in this game and get a few more goals, he could lead the Lions to victory.

Invicta (6 wins/1 OT loss/18 regulation losses, 13 points) have struggled to adapt to the new-look NIHL South 2 this season, winning just six times and never being able to string together two wins on the bounce. They have also been involved in a couple of controversial games full of penalty minutes. Not a single Mustangs player has hit either 10 goals or 20 points on the season, the closest to both marks being Bradley Gutridge with 9+8=17 – the Lions meanwhile have captain Nick Alley on 17+5=22, and the aforementioned Brown who has scored 10+9=19 thus far. The Mustangs will have to defend well against a fired-up Lions side if they want to win this game, given their lack of goalscoring threat.

All signs point towards this game being a close low-scorer, and yet again it is a hard one to predict. If the Lions offence can fire and they can score more than a couple of goals, that could be the key to them beating the Mustangs in this game and finally winning  a game this season at the final attempt.

Don’s Prediction: Lee Valley 4-3 Invicta
Laurence’s Prediction: Lee Valley 5-3 Invicta

Cardiff NIHL2 Fire vs Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats

Cardiff return to action on Sunday at home against Swindon in the final game of the regular season.

If Cardiff win on Saturday, a victory in this game could ensure them a place in the playoffs, although, with Bristol and Peterborough not being able to fit their fixture in, then the Fire don’t necessarily have to win against the Wildcats, provided as well that Bristol don’t upset Bracknell on Saturday. Confused? Good, mission accomplished. Basically, by Sunday evening at the latest we’ll know who has taken the eighth playoff spot.

Swindon were originally also going to be playing for the second time this weekend, but forfeited their planned fixture at Lee Valley on Saturday. There wasn’t much left for Swindon to play for, except 11th place. A four-point weekend would have allowed them to leapfrog over Basingstoke, but they now cannot achieve that, although they will still aim to finish 12th ahead of Invicta. That wouldn’t be a bad result for a team that lost their first 10 games. The Wildcats have won three of four heading into this weekend and they’d love to end the season on a high note, to give them momentum going into the offseason preparation for next season.

So how is Sunday’s game going to end? Well, Cardiff won 2-1 in Swindon just a fortnight ago—they could sneak away with another victory here, but don’t count out the Wildcats.

Don’s Prediction: Cardiff 4-2 Swindon
Laurence’s Prediction: Cardiff 5-2 Swindon

Fixture information

17:00 Solent Devils vs Oxford City Stars
17:30 Haringey Huskies vs Cardiff NIHL2 Fire
18:00 Bracknell Hornets vs Bristol Pitbulls

13:00 Sutton Sting vs Oxford City Stars (NIHL2 Championship Game in Coventry)
17:30 Lee Valley Lions vs Invicta Mustangs
18:00 Cardiff NIHL2 Fire vs Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats

NIHL South 2 (Wilkinson) Standings
High and low indicate highest and lowest possible finishing position in the league

We’ll have updates on scores and scorers from all the games as we get the information. Going to a game? We’d love to know what’s happening – tweet us @482days with your updates!

482days Expert Prediction Competition (after Sunday 1st April)

Don: 141pts
Laurence: 135pts

Our experts get 1 point for every correct result, and 3 points if they predict the exact score. (Although as they say: prediction is a mug’s game…)

Posted in Weekend Preview

March 30th, 2018 by Laurence Thorn

After a huge weekend of fixtures last time out that saw the Oxford City Stars clinch the NIHL South 2 championship, a quieter weekend of fixtures awaits us over Easter. There are just three games scheduled, however a big clash between third placed Bracknell and fourth placed Chelmsford on Saturday should certainly make up for the lack of fixtures.

On Easter Sunday, Bracknell will be in action again as they take on the Cardiff Fire. Bracknell will be looking to secure third place in the league, while Cardiff are still aiming for the playoffs. The final fixture of the weekend is also on Sunday as Slough – who clinched a playoff spot last weekend despite not playing! – travel to Swindon to face the Wildcats.


Bracknell Hornets vs Chelmsford Chieftains

An out of form Bracknell play host to Chelmsford, who have a 10-game winning streak, in a crucial game for final league positioning.

Bracknell (19 wins/1 OT loss/3 regulation losses, 39 points) have had a rather dismal month. After barely beating Solent at home to start March, they were upset in OT by Slough, lost away to Peterborough and were smashed by Solent in Gosport on Saturday, 8-2. They turned things around on Sunday with an 11-5 triumph over 12th-placed Invicta, and they’ll just have to hope that the victory will catapult them back into winning ways. They still have a small chance of finishing second, but there’s also the danger that they will be caught from behind by the Chieftains.

Chelmsford (19 wins/5 regulation losses, 38 points) have not lost a game since 28 January, and during that run they’ve scored an average of 9.6 goals per game, while allowing an average of 2.2. Of course, only three of those games were against teams currently in the playoff places, and none were against Chelmsford’s fellow former South 1 clubs. Chelmsford were not in action last week, and should be well-rested to take on the Hornets. Last time they met, the Chieftains secured a 3-2 win in Essex.

Solent, Bracknell and Chelmsford are guaranteed to take positions two to four, but the order still isn’t clear. The result of this game will go a long way in determining how everyone finishes up.

Don’s Prediction: Bracknell 4-5 Chelmsford (OT)
Laurence’s Prediction: Bracknell 6-5 Chelmsford (OT)


Bracknell Hornets vs Cardiff NIHL2 Fire

After what promises to be an intense game the previous night against Chelmsford, the Hornets are at home again on Sunday as they welcome Cardiff to the Hive.

Bracknell have suffered a dip in form at precisely the wrong time, with three losses on the bounce to Slough, Peterborough and Solent not only costing them the title, but also possibly second place. They are now four points behind Solent with three games left to play, so the Hornets absolutely cannot afford another defeat if they want to grab that runners-up spot. Their 11-5 win over Invicta last Sunday was a good start, as the Hornets arrested their three game skid with a comprehensive victory in which six different forwards scored at least one goal,with both Steve Fisher and Josh Ealey-Newman completing hat-tricks. They will need more of that in their remaining games.

Cardiff (9 wins/14 regulation losses, 18 points) currently sit in tenth but are just one point off a playoff spot, with games in hand on both Haringey and Bristol ahead of them. However they cannot afford another result like last Saturday’s game in Peterborough, where they fell 14-2 to the Phantoms. Their 2-1 win in Swindon the night after was a good way to bounce back from that result and, even if they don’t beat Bracknell in this game, they will still fancy their chances of reaching the post-season with two tough but very winnable games against Haringey and Swindon still to come after this one.

Bracknell will be giving everything they have to try to secure second spot in the league, so expect a motivated Hornets side to have a bit too much for Cardiff in this one.

Don’s Prediction: Bracknell 7-3 Cardiff
Laurence’s Prediction: Bracknell 9-4 Cardiff

Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats vs Slough Jets

Playoff-bound Slough look to keep momentum going as they visit Swindon, who still have a chance to finish with a better position in the table.

Swindon (5 wins/17 regulation losses/1 OT loss, 11 points) have three games remaining, which means they could potentially move ahead of Invicta and Basingstoke into 11th place. The Wildcats had a better second half of the season, and more recently they’ve won two out of three, defeating Bristol and Lee Valley before narrowly losing to Cardiff last week, 2-1. Last time Swindon met Slough, they jumped out to a big lead only to see the Jets fight back to force overtime and then win it to send the Wildcats away with just one point.

Slough(12 wins/13 regulation losses, 24 points) will take to the ice knowing they are in the playoffs after Bristol’s loss last Sunday. The Jets have won seven from their last nine and have a four-game winning run. At home they are unbeaten since November but their away form is something they’ll want to improve ahead of the quarterfinals. With some big upsets on their CV, including Chelmsford, Peterborough and Bracknell, Slough will be aiming to finish the regular season strongly and cement their seventh-place position.

Both clubs have improved as the season has progressed, although have clearly done better; but the Jets away from is suspect and the last time these two met, it took OT to separate them. This could be a very good match.

Don’s Prediction: Swindon 4-6 Slough
Laurence’s Prediction: Swindon 3-5 Slough

Fixture information

18:00 Bracknell Hornets vs Chelmsford Chieftains

18:00 Bracknell Hornets vs Cardiff NIHL2 Fire
19:45 Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats vs Slough Jets

NIHL South 2 (Wilkinson) Standings
High and low indicate highest and lowest possible finishing position in the league

We’ll have updates on scores and scorers from all the games as we get the information. Going to a game? We’d love to know what’s happening – tweet us @482days with your updates!

482days Expert Prediction Competition (after Sunday 25th March)

Don: 140pts
Laurence: 133pts

Our experts get 1 point for every correct result, and 3 points if they predict the exact score. (Although as they say: prediction is a mug’s game…)

Posted in Weekend Preview

March 23rd, 2018 by Nancy Carpenter

We’ve hit the semi-finals stage of the regional playoffs!  So we’re down to just 4 active teams left in NIHL1 South and at stake this week is a chance not only to compete in the regional final but also to take a place in the new National Final 4 weekend which will be held in Coventry in 2 weeks time.

Basingstoke Bison (1) vs London Raiders (4)

The league champions will play the only ‘classic-NIHL1’ side left in the competition. On paper this looks like it should be relatively easy for the Bison – having swept London in the league series with 4 regulation wins. But those games got closer and closer as the season progressed.

The last time these two teams met, back in mid-February, they were deadlocked at 0-0 for two periods before Brandon Ayliffe gave London the lead early in the third. The pressure from Bison intensified even more and captain Aaron Connolly scored yet another important goal for his club when he finally equalised with less than 5 minutes to go. Ryan Sutton then broke hearts in Romford as his sweet finish with just over a minute to go gave them the lead. Raiders threw everything at the net, especially in the dying seconds of the game when they got a PP to go 6-on-4 with an empty net, but they just couldn’t find a way through.

Form this season:
07-Oct: Bison 7 (Jackson x2, Antonov x2, Karpov, Connolly x2) – Raiders 1 (Nahlik)
19-Nov: Bison 6 (Connolly, Karpov, Malinik, Davies x2, Rounding) – Raiders 0
27-Jan: London 1 (Lack) – Bison 4 (Reynolds, Davies, Petts, Antonov)
18-Feb: Raiders 1 (Ayliffe) – Bison 2 (Connolly, Sutton)

So Bison are obviously going into this one as the favourites, but Raiders have a never say die attitude and will fight them all the way. A team that likes to be the gritty underdog in a fight, don’t be surprised to see them come out swinging. Bison would be fools to underestimate them.

Peterborough Phantoms (2) vs Swindon Wildcats (3)

So near and yet so far for Phantoms in the league. I can’t recall a title race quite going down to the wire like that before, but while it was an exciting conclusion to the season for those of us who were neutral, it was a real heart-breaker for the Phantoms. The playoffs are their final chance for silverware this season and winning this series will keep them in the running for 2 trophies, but losing will end their season with nothing to show for it.

They play the Wildcats, who broke their own 27-year trophy drought last Friday when they won the Autumn Cup. They are still in the running for a quadruple though, with a cup final game to come as well. Swindon on their day can compete with anyone in the league – but their consistency has been their downfall and too many dropped points saw them out of the title race a lot earlier than they would have hoped. But this is a massive game and if Coach Nell can fire his players up in the way he did for the Autumn Cup games then they could come at this with all guns blazing.

Unusually, the teams haven’t actually met since mid-January. With all four league games between them completed by December.  In terms of form – well it;s a difficult one to call. Phantoms comfortably won the series with 3 regulation wins and an OT loss to their names. But in the more recent Autumn Cup semi-finals in January it was as close as close can get. Both games finished 3-3 in regulation and it took penalty shots to separate them.

Form this season (league):
21-Oct: Phantoms 3 (Griffiths, R.Ferrara, Jamieson) – Wildcats 2 (Nell, Johnson)
05-Nov: Swindon 4 (Zajac, Jones, Liddiard, Bullas) – Phantoms 5 (Salam, Griffiths, Padelek, Weldon, Pliskauskas)
23-Dec: Phantoms 6 (Padelek, Pliskauskas x2, Griffiths, Norton, Billing) – Wildcats 2 (Bullas, Johnson)
29-Dec: Wildcats 5 (Nell x3, Bebris, Whitfield (OT)) – Phantoms 4 (Salem, Griffiths, Padelek, Norton)

Form this season (Autumn Cup semi-final):
11-Jan: Wildcats 3 (Taylor, Nell, Jones) – Phantoms 3 (Salem, Pliskauskas, Griffiths)
18-Jan: Phantoms 3 (Knaggs, Billing, J.Ferrara) – Swindon 4 (Nell x2, Jones, Nell (PS))

I personally could easily see this going either way, but I can’t imagine it being anything but close.

Fixture information​

17:15 London Raiders vs Basingstoke Bison
18:15 Swindon Wildcats vs Peterborough Phantoms

17:30 Basingstoke Bison vs London Raiders
17:30 Peterborough Phantoms vs Swindon Wildcats

482days will have live twitter updates from both series – we’ll be in Romford on Saturday and Peterborough on Sunday. If you want to come and say ‘hi’ or would like a pin badge, just look for the bright yellow laptop! We’ll also have updates on scores and scorers from all the games across the weekend as we get the information. Going to a game? We’d love to know what’s happening – tweet us @482days with your updates!

Looking for info on the NIHL2 games? You can find the NIHL2 South preview HERE where our correspondents Laurence Thorn and Don McDemott will take a look at all the action in that league this weekend.

Posted in Weekend Preview

March 23rd, 2018 by Laurence Thorn

Bracknell’s defeat in Peterborough last weekend has blown the NIHL South 2 title race wide open, with the Hornets now no longer looking like favourites. However the fourth-placed side have two games this weekend in which to get their faltering title charge back on track, including a clash with second-placed Solent on Saturday. Solent also have the “small matter” of a clash with league leaders Oxford on Sunday.

Saturday’s biggest game is the aforementioned clash between Solent and Bracknell, but there are two more games on the schedule too; playoff-chasing Haringey welcome Guildford to Ally Pally, while Peterborough welcome Cardiff, another team looking to make it into the post-season.

It promises to be a busy Sunday with five games scheduled. In addition to Oxford against Solent and Bracknell vs Invicta, we will also see Lee Valley hosting Basingstoke, Guildford welcoming Bristol and Cardiff playing their second away game of the weekend as they travel to Swindon.


Solent Devils vs Bracknell Hornets

Solent still have a chance at winning the league, but they face two must-win games this weekend against Bracknell and Oxford City. First up, the Hornets on Saturday.

Solent (20 wins/2 regulation losses/1 OT loss, 41 pointswill certainly be looking for revenge after losing 2-1 away to Bracknell on 3 March, but they’ll be aiming for a lot more than just that. Solent are three points behind Oxford City with a game in hand—and will face the league leaders twice to end the season. If Solent fail to pick up points from any one of their three remaining games, the Stars will win the league. But Solent are a good team and have lost just once in their last 17 games.

Bracknell (18 wins/1 OT loss/2 regulation losses, 37 points) are in a small downward spin right now, which is not a position they want to be in with the playoffs fast approaching. After their shock loss OT loss to Slough on the 10th, they lost again last Sunday, 2-1 away to Peterborough. They have now slipped down to fourth place, but they do have plenty of games in hand and technically are still in the running to win the league, although it’s unlikely. They can certainly aim for third or even second but they will need to return to their winning ways.

This is a hard one to predict. Bracknell have slipped up over the last fortnight, but they did beat Solent earlier this month. That meeting was a very well-contested encounter—expect Saturday’s game to be much of the same.

Don’s Prediction: Solent 3-2 Bracknell (OT)
Laurence’s Prediction: Solent 4-3 Bracknell

Haringey Huskies vs Guildford Phoenix

Haringey are still clinging onto the final playoff spot as they welcome Guildford to Ally Pally on Saturday.

Haringey (9 wins/14 regulation losses/1 OT loss, 19 points) have won just once in their last 10 games, but somehow they have continued to occupy the final playoff spot. However, things have become very close in recent weeks. Bristol are level on points with a game in hand, and Cardiff are three points behind but with three games in hand. Haringey have just two games remaining and they really need to win both of them. They’ll finish the season with a mouth-watering home clash against Cardiff, but it starts this weekend against Guildford. The Huskies will be underdogs (pardon the pun), but if they want to make it to the playoffs, they’ve simply got to pull off the upset.

Guildford (13 wins/10 regulation losses/1 OT loss, 27 points) are in an interesting position. They can’t catch up the “Top Five” teams (the former South 1 sides and Peterborough) but they are under no danger from Slough in seventh or anyone else below the Jets. The Phoenix will want to avoid any injuries and cut down on fatigue, but at the same time, they can’t afford to coast as they will want to be at peak form when the playoffs arrive. It’s nice to go into the postseason on a winning streak, but Haringey and Bristol (their final opponent) both gave Guildford a real fight in earlier meetings. The Phoenix defeated Haringey by just two goals last time around, and that was at home.

Again, the expectation is that Guildford will take the points, but Haringey cannot be counted out of this match. They need the win too badly.

Don’s Prediction: Haringey 5-6 Guildford (OT)
Laurence’s Prediction: Haringey 3-5 Guildford

Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms vs Cardiff NIHL2 Fire

Peterborough host Cardiff in a rematch of the Phantoms hard-fought victory back in January.

Peterborough (16 wins/7 regulation losses, 32 points) had a mid-season slump but that seems to be well and truly a thing of the past, as they’ve won six of their last seven, with a loss to the upset-specialising Slough Jets being the only blip on the radar. Last week they welcomed Bracknell to town and sent the Hornets away with a 2-1 loss, in what was a goalless affair until the 49th minute when Kenny Bavin gave Peterborough the lead. Harvey Hind-Pitcher equalised for the Hornets with just a few minutes left on the clock, but in the 58th minute captain Clint Herring scored to give the Phantoms the two points.

Cardiff (8 wins/13 regulation losses, 16 points) have two games this weekend, and they’ll be aiming to win both of them to keep their playoffs hope alive and well. With Slough almost certain to clinch a spot sometime in the next fortnight, Cardiff will have to beat out Haringey and Bristol for the final place. The Fire have one win in six, and those five losses have been pretty brutal. However, it must be remembered that those losses were all against the former South 1 clubs, as Cardiff played twice against Oxford City and Chelmsford, and once against Solent. Their remaining schedule includes two winnable games against Swindon, an enticing clash against Haringey and a visit from the Hornets.

The Fire could realistically make the playoffs winning just three from their last five, but an upset win over Peterborough wouldn’t hurt. They only lost 3-2 last time, although that was at home. The Phantoms have won eight out of their ten home games so far, so this is a tough ask for Cardiff.

Don’s Prediction: Peterborough 7-3 Cardiff
Laurence’s Prediction: Peterborough 6-3 Cardiff


Guildford Phoenix vs Bristol Pitbulls

Guildford are in action again on Sunday and this time they’re at home, with Bristol paying them a visit.

This is Guildford’s final game of the regular season, and with a long lay-off ahead of them before the playoffs begin, the Phoenix will be aiming for a big win. Then it’s simply time to keep practicing as the weeks roll by until the quarterfinals start on 14 April.

Bristol (9 wins/13 regulation losses/1 OT loss, 19 points) are not going to be pushovers, though. They are in ninth place, fighting to make the playoffs along with Cardiff and Haringey. Earlier this month, they were practically out of the running, but wins over Basingstoke and Invicta have put them right back in it. They play Bracknell and Peterborough away after this clash with Guildford, so this weekend’s game will be their easiest remaining fixture.

Last time these two teams met, it was a close affair, with Guildford leaving with a 2-1 victory. The Pitbulls will need to keep it close again on Sunday—only this time, they must come away with two points.

Don’s Prediction: Guildford 5-3 Bristol
Laurence’s Prediction: Guildford 3-4 Bristol (OT)

Lee Valley Lions vs Basingstoke Buffalo

A real basement battle awaits us on Sunday as bottom club Lee Valley welcome Basingstoke – currently sitting in 11th place – to the Den.

Lee Valley (19 regulation losses/3 OT losses, 3 points) looked like they were well on their way to finally taking a win this season as they led 3-2 in Swindon in the 27th minute of their game last Saturday. But a crazy seven minutes saw the Lions concede five goals and they ended up losing the game 8-4. They will desperately hope to take a win in this Sunday’s home game against a Basingstoke side that has won just one game since November. The problem? That one win for Basingstoke came against the Lions last month. Lee Valley may also be without influential captain Nick Alley, who hurt his knee in the game in Swindon.

Basingstoke (5 wins/15 regulation losses/4 OT losses, 14 points) as previously mentioned have won just once since November, a 5-2 win at home over the Lions just over a month ago. Since then, the Buffalo have lost four games on the bounce, although they were all fairly close. One player catching the eye recently has been netminder Aaron Craft who has been receiving rave reviews for his performances, despite not being able to steal many wins for his team.

It will be a tough ask for the Lions to win their first game of the season without their captain, but with home ice advantage and facing a team that is out of form themselves, it may be Lee Valley’s best chance of taking that long-awaited win.

Don’s Prediction: Lee Valley 4-2 Basingstoke
Laurence’s Prediction: Lee Valley 5-4 Basingstoke

Bracknell Hornets vs Invicta Mustangs

Bracknell play for the second time in the weekend on Sunday, as they take on an Invicta Mustangs side that have already been eliminated from playoff contention.

The Hornets will see this game as a must-win, especially if they happened to lose the previous night’s game against Solent. They cannot afford a slip-up in this one as they chase the title or, at the very least, second place in the standings.

Invicta (6 wins/17 regulation losses/1 OT loss, 13 points) have struggled to score goals this season, and as a result find themselves 12th in the standings and mathematically unable to make the playoffs. They have also been unable to win two games in a row all season long which has hurt them, as they have never been able to go on a winning run to build up some momentum. Indeed they have only won 2 games in 2018 so far, one each in January and February.

When these sides met last month, it was a surprisingly tight 3-1 away win for the Hornets. With Bracknell playing at home this time, and desperate to keep themselves in the title picture. expect a bigger win this time around.

Don’s Prediction: Bracknell 9-2 Invicta
Laurence’s Prediction: Bracknell 8-2 Invicta

Oxford City Stars vs Solent Devils

The second massive clash of the weekend for the Solent Devils sees them travel to Oxford to take on the league-leading City Stars.

Oxford (22 wins/2  regulation losses, 44 points) have won eight games in a row since their loss to Bracknell back in early January, as they have tightened their grip at the top of the table. They only have two games left in the regular season – both against the Devils. The Stars took a routine 12-0 win in Cardiff last weekend, with eight different players on the scoresheet including defenceman Dominic Hopkins who bagged a hat-trick.

One player who will not be on the scoresheet either this weekend, or for the rest of the season, is Czech forward Kamil Kinkor, who has left the Stars due to work and family commitments. That will be a big loss for the team, with Kinkor currently second in league scoring on 75 points from just 23 games.

Solent will have already played against Bracknell the night before, so will be looking to either bounce back from that loss or take two wins on the weekend. Whatever the result the night before, this is a huge game for the Devils and one they have to win if they want to maintain their chances of taking the league title. We say it every week, but the likes of Richard Facey – the only player ahead of Kinkor in league scoring with 79 points – Drew Campbell and the Murray brothers Alex and Mitchell will have to be on top form as usual.

This game is very hard to call, with both sides not having faced each other yet this season. Home advantage may give a slight edge to the Stars in this one, but it could go either way.

Don’s Prediction: Oxford 4-3 Solent (OT)
Laurence’s Prediction: Oxford 6-4 Solent

Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats vs Cardiff NIHL2 Fire

Playoff-chasing Cardiff play their second road game of the weekend on Sunday, as they make the relatively short trip to Swindon to take on a resurgent Wildcats side.

Swindon (5 wins/16 regulation losses/1 OT loss, 11 points) have won their last two games on the bounce, with 3-2 win over Bristol and an 8-4 victory over Lee Valley. In both those games they were able to field a full roster of 20 skaters and 2 netminders, and the mix of youth and experience in the Wildcats side finally seems to be gelling together at the right time. They will definitely be a tough opponent for Cardiff.

The Fire will have already played a tough game in Peterborough the previous night, so an away game against a speedy Swindon side the following day is not exactly what the doctor ordered. Cardiff are faltering in their quest to get into playoff contention, with only one win from their last six games meaning they are three points off a playoff place at the moment. They still have enough games in hand to make up this deficit, but they need to improve their form if they want to make that jump.

This game is hard to predict and could depend on the bench strength of the respective teams. If Swindon field another full lineup and play like they did against Bristol and Lee Valley, it will be a very tough night indeed for the Fire.

Don’s Prediction: Swindon 4-5 Cardiff
Laurence’s Prediction: Swindon 4-3 Cardiff (OT)

Fixture information

17:00 Solent Devils vs Bracknell Hornets
17:30 Haringey Huskies vs Guildford Phoenix
18:45 Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms vs Cardiff Fire

17:30 Guildford Phoenix vs Bristol Pitbulls
17:30 Lee Valley Lions vs Basingstoke Buffalo
18:00 Bracknell Hornets vs Invicta Mustangs
18:15 Oxford City Stars vs Solent Devils
19:45 Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats vs Cardiff NIHL2 Fire

NIHL South 2 (Wilkinson) Standings
High and low indicate highest and lowest possible finishing position in the league

We’ll have updates on scores and scorers from all the games as we get the information. Going to a game? We’d love to know what’s happening – tweet us @482days with your updates!

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

482days Expert Prediction Competition (after Sunday 18th March)

Don: 133pts
Laurence: 128pts

Our experts get 1 point for every correct result, and 3 points if they predict the exact score. (Although as they say: prediction is a mug’s game…)

Posted in Weekend Preview

March 16th, 2018 by Laurence Thorn

The upcoming weekend looks to be a crucial one in the NIHL South 2 title battle, with the top 3 sides Oxford, Solent and Bracknell each playing once, as do Chelmsford and Peterborough in fourth and fifth respectively.

Saturday will be extremely busy with five games scheduled. League leaders Oxford travel to Cardiff to take on the Fire, while second placed side Solent host Haringey. Both Cardiff and Haringey are also locked in a battle for the last playoff spots, making these two games even more interesting. The other games see Bristol host Invicta, Slough entertain Basingstoke, and bottom side Lee Valley travelling to Swindon.

There would have been a sixth game on Saturday – and a crucial one at that – with third placed Bracknell scheduled to host an in-form Chelmsford side. However that game has now been postponed due to a clash with the Bracknell Bees’ NIHL South 1 playoff home game. A new date for the Hornets-Chieftains game is to be announced

Both Bracknell and Chelmsford will play on Sunday, however; the Hornets travel to Peterborough to take on the Phantoms in what could be the game of the weekend, while Chelmsford host the Bristol Pitbulls.


Solent Devils vs Haringey Huskies

In one of Saturday’s most intriguing – and most important – games, title-chasing Solent entertain a Haringey side desperate to cling onto a playoff place.

Solent (19 wins/2 regulation losses/1 OT loss, 39 pointscurrently sit second in the league, but their last two games were not as imperious as the 14 that had come before. Two weekends ago, Bracknell ended Solent’s run of 14 straight wins, as the Hornets won 2-1 at the Hive in one of the biggest games of the season so far. And last weekend Solent found themselves 3-0 down in Guildford before a rousing performance saw the Devils grab five unanswered goals to win the game 5-3. Solent sit three points behind leaders Oxford and have one game in hand, so this game is crucial in order to keep up that pressure. Richard Facey and Mitchell Murray scored four points each in that comeback win over Guildford last weekend, and they will be among the dangermen for the Devils as usual.

Haringey (9 wins/13 regulation losses/1 OT loss, 19 points) lost a key game to the Slough Jets last time out, going down 4-3 in overtime at the Palace. The point they gained from that overtime defeat sees them hold onto eighth place – and therefore the final playoff slot – but with Bristol and Cardiff both within a few points of the Huskies, the North Londoners can’t afford many more defeats this season. The game against title-chasing Solent would appear to come at the wrong time for Haringey, with a defeat looking likely on paper. But if the likes of Stephen Woodford and Sam Roberts can shine for the Huskies and they manage to defeat Solent, imagine what that will do for their confidence ahead of their remaining games?

Solent look like likely winners here however, having already beaten the Huskies 7-1 at the Palace last month.

Don’s Prediction: Solent 6-2 Haringey
Laurence’s Prediction: Solent 8-3 Haringey

Bristol Pitbulls vs Invicta Mustangs

Bristol have a must-win game on “home ice” in Oxford on Saturday as they are visited by Invicta.

The Pitbulls (8 wins/13 regulation losses/1 OT loss, 17 points) have managed to keep themselves in playoff contention after a narrow 2-1 win over Basingstoke last week, which moved them into ninth place, over Cardiff. Bristol have two games in hand on Haringey in eighth, and sit two points back. But after this week’s game, they have a brutal schedule—four away games against Chelmsford, Guildford, Peterborough and Bracknell. So if Bristol are going to steal a playoff spot, they need a win on Saturday over Invicta, and probably a few upsets along the way.

Invicta (6 wins/16 regulation losses/1 OT loss, 13 points) have no playoff aspirations, but they undoubtedly have aspirations to score goals. They haven’t found the back of the net since 17 February, having been shut out by Oxford City and Chelmsford. Last week against the Chieftains, Michal Oravec scored twice for Chelmsford within in the first five minutes as they dominated the Mustangs, 8-0. But on the positive side, last time Invicta met Bristol, the Mustangs won 6-2.

Will the pressure of absolutely needing a win get to Bristol? Or will they be spurred on to a win that would keep their dim playoffs hopes alive? This could be a tight game.

Don’s Prediction: Bristol 5-3 Invicta
Laurence’s Prediction: Bristol 4-2 Invicta

Slough Jets vs Basingstoke Buffalo

The Jets will be looking to solidify their position in the playoffs on Saturday as the welcome in Basingstoke to the mini-Hangar for the Jets penultimate game of the season.

Slough (11 wins/13 regulation losses, 22 points) have been stellar at home, and haven’t lost at home since November. They kept that run going last Saturday with a stunning victory over Bracknell—which may have ruined the Hornets chances of winning the league. The Jets got on the board first thanks to Lukas Smital, but Bracknell responded with four unanswered goals to take a three-goal lead. Jamie Chandler started Slough’s comeback, and then Simon Griffiths’ one-timer from the blue line make it a one-goal game at the end of the second. Liam Underdown equalized on the powerplay before Bracknell retook the lead. Then Jack Standing picked the perfect time to score his first goal of the season and the game went to OT. The Hornets were given a penalty shot midway through, but netminder Chris Douglas was aggressive and made the save. With under a minute left, the Jets had a two-on-one and Luke Reynolds buried the puck home, sending Slough’s largest gate of the season into raptures. Douglas, who had made some stellar saves on breakaways in addition to stopping the OT penalty shot, was awarded man of the match.

Basingstoke (5 wins/14 regulation losses/4 OT losses, 14 points) played in a similar fixture, but they were on the receiving end of a close loss in their Sunday match against Bristol. The Pitbulls led within three minutes thanks to Giovanni Raffaelli. Neither side could find the back of the net until the third period, when Oscar Evans equalized for the Buffalo in the 50th minute. But Bristol dug deep and Raffaelli scored again four minutes after Basingstoke’s goal to put the Pitbulls back in the lead to stay. Basingstoke have now lost three games on the trot and are no longer a player in the playoff race.

Last time Slough and Basingstoke met the Buffalo secured a 6-5 home victory. This one will probably have a different result.

Don’s Prediction: Slough 7-4 Basingstoke
Laurence’s Prediction: Slough 6-3 Basingstoke

Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats vs Lee Valley Lions

A true basement battle takes place on Saturday with the winless Lee Valley Lions travelling to the side currently in 13th, Swindon.

The Wildcats (4 wins/16 regulation losses/1 OT loss, 9 points) won their last outing 3-2 at home to the Bristol Pitbulls to extend their points over the Lions to six points. That was Swindon’s first win in over a month after four defeats in a row. Nathan Chilcott, Christopher Leykam and Haydn Lee each got a goal in the win over the Pitbulls while Michael Crisp was stellar in goal, stopping 44 of 46 Bristol shots. The youthful Wildcats will hope to defeat the Lions and avoid propping up the table come the end of the season.

Lee Valley (3 OT losses/18 regulation losses, 3 points) have endured a very tough season for a number of reasons, but relief is in sight: their next four games see them face Swindon twice, Invicta once and Basingstoke once. These are the three sides closest to them in the table, so the Lions will feel confident of finally picking up a win or two in order to end the season on a high. With a six point deficit to Swindon ahead of them, two wins over the Wildcats could see the Lions make a late-season run for 13th spot in the league – but they will have to win this weekend to stand any chance of that. They had a tough ask last time out, playing Chelmsford in back-to-back games and being defeated in both as expected. However the away game in Chelmsford saw captain Nick Alley score a hat-trick and Matthew Hepburn bag two goals, as the Lions put in a far better performance than the previous night’s home defeat.

If the Lions can bring a similar level of performance as they did in the away game in Chelmsford, they will feel confident of taking at least a point back home with them from Swindon. It should be a tight game.

Don’s Prediction: Swindon 4-5 Lee Valley (OT)
Laurence’s Prediction: Swindon 2-3 Lee Valley

Cardiff NIHL2 Fire vs Oxford City Stars

Oxford City make the trip to Wales to face Cardiff in an important game for both clubs as the season draws to a close.

Cardiff (8 wins/12 regulation losses, 16 points) are in the unenviable position of “the outside looking in,” sitting in 10th place, three points behind Haringey in eighth. The Fire do have three games in hand, but they have plenty of tough games coming up against some top teams in the league. They’ll probably need to win all of the somewhat easier games on their schedule—two against Swindon and a crucial clash against Haringey—to make the playoffs. An upset victory over the Stars would ease the pressure extensively. But the Fire played away to Oxford City just a month ago and were defeated heavily, 8-1. Last week Cardiff were beaten 6-1 by another former South 1 team, so a win over the Stars might be a stretch too far.

Oxford City (21 wins/2  regulation losses, 42 points) would have been pleased to see Slough upset Bracknell last Saturday, but the Stars know that they still need to keep winning to make sure that they hold of the Hornets—and of course, second-place Solent! The Stars are just three points clear of Solent, who have a game in hand. And more importantly, those two sides meet each other in their final two games of the season! Those results will likely decide the league, especially if both sides keep winning. Oxford have a seven-game winning run, and have only lost twice this season—interestingly, both times to Bracknell. The Stars haven’t played since 25 February, though, and worryingly for Oxford fans, they barely held off 13th-placed Swindon.

But regardless of how Oxford get on in those two games against Solent, this weekend’s game seems to a given. On paper, Oxford are heavy favourites, although nothing is ever for certain.

Don’s Prediction: Cardiff 3-9 Oxford
Laurence’s Prediction: Cardiff 3-10 Oxford


Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms vs Bracknell Hornets

Probably the biggest game of the weekend takes place on Sunday as the Bracknell Hornets look to recover from last weekend’s OT defeat in Slough as they take on the Phantoms in Peterborough.

Peterborough (15 wins/7 regulation losses) bounced back from their own defeat to Slough in style last weekend, beating Guildford 6-4 and all but sewing up fifth place in the league as the “best of the rest” behind the four ex-NIHL1 clubs. Two goals for Clint Herring and one each for Kenny Bavin, Bradley Moore, Conor Pollard and 16-year old Bradley Bowering saw the Phantoms take a big win over their direct rivals for fifth place. They can still mathematically make it as high as third in the league, but fifth seems more likely given the form of the sides ahead of them.

Bracknell (18 wins/1 OT loss/1 regulation loss, 37 points) lost in overtime to the Slough Jets last weekend, in what was only their second defeat of the season. Given the respective league positions of the sides, it has to go down as a shock result, although Slough are pretty much unbeatable at home right now so the Hornets will hope the defeat was a “one-off” and will try to move on quickly. They still have a good chance of taking the title, with three games in hand over leaders Oxford and a five point deficit, but they absolutely cannot afford any more Slough-style slip-ups if they want to take the coveted crown come the end of the season. And a game away at Peterborough is not the easiest task, as the Hornets’ tight 5-3 home win over the Phantoms back in January shows.

The Phantoms are no longer playing for the league title themselves, but they could play a big role in determining where the title goes, should they beat the Hornets in this game. It should be a pretty close one, whichever way it goes.

Don’s Prediction: Peterborough 2-3 Bracknell (OT)
Laurence’s Prediction: Peterborough 3-5 Bracknell

Chelmsford Chieftains vs Bristol Pitbulls

Chelmsford versus Bristol: The Sequel is upon us, as the Pitbulls visit the Chieftains looking for another upset win over their Essex opponents.

Chelmsford (18 wins/5 regulation losses, 34 points) have solidified their position in fourth place, but they will be looking up at Bracknell (only one point ahead but three games in hand) and wondering if they can somehow take third. Even if that’s a remote chance, the Chieftains don’t want to coast into the playoffs. They have a nine-game winning run and they’ll want to stay unbeaten for the rest of the regular season. Considering that in that run of nine games, no opponent has managed to lose by less than five goals, Chelmsford seem to be in pretty good shape.

But what about Bristol? Earlier on, we pointed out that they need to win on Saturday and desperately needed an upset (or two) to make the playoffs. Well, last time they played the Chieftains, way back in November, they won 3-1. So the Pitbulls will go into this game knowing that they have to win and they can win. But will they? Chelmsford seem pretty good to us…

Don’s Prediction: Chelmsford 7-5 Bristol
Laurence’s Prediction: Chelmsford 8-4 Bristol

Fixture information

17:00 Solent Devils vs Haringey Huskies
17:00 Bristol Pitbulls vs Invicta Mustangs
18:00 Slough Jets vs Basingstoke Buffalo
18:15 Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats vs Lee Valley Lions
18:30 Cardiff NIHL2 Fire vs Oxford City Stars

17:30 Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms vs Bracknell Hornets
18:30 Chelmsford Chieftains vs Bristol Pitbulls

NIHL South 2 (Wilkinson) Standings
High and low indicate highest and lowest possible finishing position in the league

We’ll have updates on scores and scorers from all the games as we get the information. Going to a game? We’d love to know what’s happening – tweet us @482days with your updates!

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

482days Expert Prediction Competition (after Sunday 25th February)

Don: 128pts
Laurence: 123pts

Our experts get 1 point for every correct result, and 3 points if they predict the exact score. (Although as they say: prediction is a mug’s game…)

Posted in Weekend Preview

March 16th, 2018 by Nancy Carpenter

Well the league is now officially in the bag. Congratulations to Basingstoke Bison on their league win and picking up the first piece of silverware in the South this season. They could be taking home another trophy tonight of course.

So Friday sees the Autumn Cup finally conclude (well at least it’s not officially spring yet!) and then the weekend arrives and it’s ALL about the playoffs. 8 teams enter the weekend and at the end of it the season will be over for at least 3 of them!

In a break from tradition – we’ll take a look at the Autumn Cup final first and then take a look at the 4 playoff match-ups.

Autumn Cup action
Someone is winning some silverware tonight! The second leg of the Autumn Cup final is upon us. Last week, the snow-delayed first leg at Basingstoke saw the Wildcats take a 3-1 lead against the Bison – giving them a 2-goal advantage for their home leg tonight.

So you probably have to think that Swindon are the favourites going into the game tonight. They have only lost at home twice this season and only once by more than a one-goal margin. Guess who that was against though!

Swindon have the overall series against Basingstoke taking 13 points to Bison’s 7 in their 9 meetings so far this season and with a goal advantage of 28 to 24. But the last two league match-ups saw Bison win both home and away by more than 3 goals (5-2 in Swindon and 4-0 in Basingstoke). So they know they have the capability to pull this off.

These are two teams who know each other well. Not only have they already met 9 times this season, but both had at least half of their squad return from last season as well. So there likely won’t be any surprises left to pull. It’s simply going to come down to who brings it tonight. Which set of players can put aside the upcoming playoffs and focus everything on tonight? Who’s going to provide that spark of individual brilliance: scoring that goal, making that great hit, pulling off that save – you know the one that has everybody talking the next day and sharing video clips of it on twitter?  Bison have already had one such moment this season – when Aaron Connolly scored with 2 minutes to go at Peterborough. That goal is effectively the one that won them the title. It may not have been the best goal he ever scored, but it’s certainly got to be up there as one of the most important!

Or maybe rather than some individual brilliance – one team will just put in a total team performance, with everyone doing their job brilliantly and forming an unstoppable unit? Or maybe one team will just take their eye off the ball for a few minutes and the game will be lost in that time?

However it gets decided – I just hope it continues the recent trend of the big games that we’ve covered recently also being hugely entertaining hockey. We had it in the Fens in the big game between Phantoms and Bison, and again last weekend in Hull for the Northern title game. I’m hoping such things come in threes!

Playoff Action

And so onto the playoffs! I have to admit that I love knock-out hockey. There are no permutations to worry about. It’s simple stuff – win over 2 legs and you’re through. Lose and you are out – season over!

Four series take place this weekend, with everyone hoping that the #minibeastfromtheeast doesn’t impact on the series, otherwise the EIHA will have some interesting decisions to make over the next few days

Note that for all of these series (including the Autumn Cup above, individual games can now end in a draw. We’ll only be going to overtime if the teams are tied after the end of regulation in the second leg.

Basingstoke Bison (1) vs Invicta Dynamos (8)

Taking on the league champs is never an easy thing to do however it’s the task faced by the Dynamos this weekend. Travelling to Hampshire for the first leg will be a big challenge and they will want to massively improve on their performance last weekend when they were put to the sword by the Bison’s clinical attacking play.

Our friends at Banners on the Wall just voted Aaron Connolly their Bison player of the year, he’ll be looking to build on an impressive season for the Bison, averaging a point a game so far this season. In terms of the history between the sides, Bison have won all four encounters this year. No side on the ice has come from 8th place to beat the top seeded team in the six previous playoffs (since this format came in), so the Mo’s will have it all to do.

Peterborough Phantoms (2) vs Milton Keynes Thunder (7)

Phantoms will be looking to go for the playoffs hunting for silverware after just coming up short for the league title by the narrowest of margins and face the MK Thunder who have a habit of causing shocks and surprises in the playoffs. Two years ago they won their first leg as the 7th ranked side against Invicta Dynamos and back in 2015 beat Streatham IHC 9-4 on aggregate as the 6th ranked side.

Phantoms have won three of the four games against MK this season, but will wary of them no doubt after the Thunder won in the league on penalty shots back in November in a 2-1 victory. Thunder have been at their best in games when they have kept it close in low scoring matches. Peterborough will want to widen the game up with early goals, but if the Thunder keep it low scoring, this could be a series to watch.

Swindon Wildcats (3) vs Streatham IHC (6)

Swindon host Streatham in what will be another interesting series after four league games all of which had their own character. Three of the four league games were settled by more than four goals with two wins for the Wildcats and one for Streatham as well as a tight 2-1 victory for the Wildcats at the Link Centre earlier on in the season.

There’s no doubt that the Cats have hit form, winning eight out of their last nine games and losing only to the league champions. But Streatham have an uncanny habit of turning it around in the playoffs, most noticeably in 2016 when after a losing run into the season against in-form Oxford, Streatham edged past the Stars in overtime. They’ll need a good defensive effort this weekend, while for Swindon, they’ll be looking for a take a solid performance on Friday night into the rest of the weekend.

London Raiders (4) vs Bracknell Bees (5)

The battle for 4th place ended with the Raiders becoming the only 2016/17 NIHL side to finish above a former EPIHL side, in the end by 3pts and with the Raiders move to Romford and crowd’s increasing they go into this game as the higher seeded favourites. But in their way, Bracknell Bees are going to be a stern challenge and this should once again be a superb playoff series as the 4th vs 5th series often is.

In three out of the last four playoff competitions, the 4th vs 5th tie has seen the lower ranked side has gone on to win the series (Streatham being awarded the game against London in 2014, although they were ahead at the time, Streatham beating Oxford in 2016 and London beating Oxford in 2017), so it’s by far the most unpredictable of the series in NIHL1 South. You feel that this could end up being an attacking series, with both sides having good forwards which means a goal fest could happen here.

Fixture information​

19:45 Swindon Wildcats vs Basingstoke Bison (Autumn Cup Final)

17:30 Streatham IHC vs Swindon Wildcats (NIHL1 QF playoffs)
18:00 Bracknell Bees vs London Raiders (NIHL1 QF playoffs)
18:30 Basingstoke Bison vs Invicta Dynamos (NIHL1 QF playoffs)
19:00 Peterborough Phantoms vs Milton Keynes Thunder (NIHL1 QF playoffs)

17:15 Invicta Dynamos vs Basingstoke Bison (NIHL1 QF playoffs)
17:15 London Raiders vs Bracknell Bees (NIHL1 QF playoffs)
18:45 Milton Keynes Thunder vs Peterborough Phantoms (NIHL1 QF playoffs)
18:50 Swindon Wildcats vs Streatham IHC (NIHL1 QF playoffs)

482days will have live twitter updates from the Autumn Cup final in Swindon on Friday, Basingstoke on Saturday and whichever game looks the most interesting on Sunday. If you want to come and say ‘hi’ or would like a pin badge, just look for the bright yellow laptop! We’ll also have updates on scores and scorers from all the games across the weekend as we get the information. Going to a game? We’d love to know what’s happening – tweet us @482days with your updates!

Looking for info on the NIHL2 games? You can find the NIHL2 South preview HERE where our correspondents Laurence Thorn and Don McDemott will take a look at all the action in that league this weekend.


Posted in Weekend Preview