Credit: Chris Cornford Photography
And we’re back for part 2 of #Fantasy Friday, looking at a massive what-if style tournament between the top 16 NIHL1 teams between the North and the South. Last week, Blackburn, Billingham, Solway and Bracknell all booked their ticket to the Quarter Finals.
Chelmsford Chieftains (S1) vs Solihull Barons (N8)
For me, this is the tie of the round and something that makes me wish that this was actually a real thing. Chelmsford, would undoubtably be favourites, but you can’t argue with Solihull’s record especially at home which is simply outstanding.
Chelmsford and imports has always been a complicated story with the Essex fans demanding nothing but the very best out of their imported players, but there’s no denying that Martin Piecha was up to the standard this season, top scoring for the club by a clear 10 points, 6th in the league in total. Elsewhere, Euan King in the nets was spectacular with a GAA of just 1.95, the best in the league by a mile.
NIHL2 in the north is a different league for sure, but there’s no denying the quality of Joe Henry, 99pts from 31 games and he wasn’t alone in the high numbers with four players including Swede Niklas Ottosson ending up at 80 points or more for the season.
In a lot of ways, this is about Chelmsford Defence vs Solihull’s fast moving physical attack, and I really, really could see Solihull pulling off a shock at home in the first leg, but there’s simply no way that Chelmsford would be beaten over 120 minutes of hockey and in the end, I think it’d would be comfortable.
Invicta Dynamos (S2) vs Manchester NIHL Phoenix (N7)
There’s been a lot of great (pretend) matches here. This isn’t one of them. I’m afraid here, this is Invicta by a bucket of goals. Manchester had a tough season, shipping 216 goals (second in the whole NIHL only to errr Oxford) but in just 24 games for 9 goals against a game. Invicta on the other hand come in at the highest goalscorers in the South with 202 in 36 games.
There’s not much to write more on this, other than Invicta by two dozen.
Streatham Redskins (S3) vs Whitley Warriors (N6)
Now we’re talking. Fans of both sides would be forgiven for nostalgia overload as both teams spent around five years in the old British (Heineken) Premier League, the old top tier of hockey in this country with some famous ties between the two sides before they both started their drift down the divisions. I reckon Carrsy would happy with this matchup!
Whitley’s issue has been goal scoring, scoring at just 3.3 goals a game, compared to Streatham’s 5.2 a game. However, there’s practically nothing between the sides defensively, with the two teams goals against at 3.9 and 4.1 respectively. You feel that goalkeeping would be crucial for both sides, with unsurprisingly both main starters Mark Turnball and Will Sanderson having almost identical records.
The key man for Streatham would undoubtably be Callum Best, who put up 90 points and was an everpresent threat for the Redskins. All of this being said however, I think we need a few more upsets in this competition, and I could honestly see the big trip for Streatham up to Whitley on the Saturday getting the better of them. Whitley to win the first leg by a goal, then a draw on the Sunday night to put the Warriors through.
Wightlink Raiders (S4) vs Sutton Sting (N5)
It should probably be a battle of the small (And very small rinks) but of course Sutton play out of iceSheffield at Senior Level and not out of the 36m x 18m Lammas rink in Sutton itself. And in a lot of respect, this game feels the most like heading into the unknown. Rather like in the game just above, Sutton’s issue is scoring with no player scoring more than a point a game over the full 24 game season in NIHL1 North.
However, to get a better idea of what the Sting are about, they have been a team that has constantly pulled rabbits out of hats and produced fantastic results. Winning 8-1 at home to 2nd place Billingham, beating them 6-1 at home, and getting a point in a 2-2 against the eventual winners Blackburn on opening night, they certainly seem to be a team for the big time, and in a lot of respects Wightlink had the reverse problems last season, losing to Oxford, Solent and Gosport and other teams down the foot of the table.
That being said, Wightlink, backed by Cesky, should have more than enough firepower up front to put themselves into the second round.
So, we’ll have the next round next weekend which is:
Blackburn Hawks vs Wightlink Raiders
Billingham Stars vs Whitley Warriors
Invicta Dynamos vs Solway Sharks
Chelmsford Cheiftains vs Bracknell Hornets