The NIHL South 2 season continues this weekend with seven games on the schedule – six on Saturday and only one on Remembrance Sunday.
The top three teams in the league – Chelmsford, Oxford and Slough – are all in action, while bottom side Lee Valley are the only team to play two games this weekend.
Solent Devils vs Cardiff Fire
The Devils won an intense game against the Raiders last weekend, ultimately taking an 8-5 win on the south coast as they continue to rehabilitate themselves from their two defeats to Slough a few weeks ago. Richard Facey and youngster Elliot Lewis scored twice each against the Raiders, with other goals coming from Alex Trendall, Drew Campbell, player-coach Alex Murray and Mark Pitts in his first game back after an injury lay-off. With the players mentioned as well as Mitchell Murray, the Devils have a number of players who can usually be relied upon to score big goals; so they will be hoping to take a home win over Cardiff to continue their quest for a top four place – Solent currently lie in fifth place.
The Fire have had a rollercoaster ride in the last few weeks; a sensational 10-9 overtime win over Bracknell being followed by a win against Bristol, a heavy 0-12 defeat in Slough, a 10-2 win at home over Lee Valley and then a tight 3-5 defeat against Bracknell in the return fixture last weekend. Thus it is very hard to read Cardiff’s form, and they currently lie in tenth place which highlights their inconsistency so far. Jackson Price continues to lead the team’s scoring charts, bagging 9+9=18 in eight games to date, but with a negative goal difference of -6, the Fire need to improve at both ends of the ice if they wish to move up the table.
With home ice advantage, the Devils are favourites in this one against an inconsistent Fire side.
Invicta Mustangs vs Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms
The Mustangs were soundly beaten in Slough last weekend, going down 14-1 to the Jets – but most teams are losing to the Jets these days, so that shouldn’t deter them too much. Nonetheless, their only two wins so far have come against Lee Valley and Swindon, who are both winless on the season. One senses that the Mustangs will likely be in a battle with those two clubs towards the bottom of the standings come the end of the season, and the wins they took against those two teams are already important in that battle.
Peterborough’s recent run of poor form came to an end last Saturday as they beat Haringey 10-5, their first win in four games. James Pentecost, Nick Alley and Conor Pollard bagged two goals each, with four other players chipping in with a goal apiece, as the Phantoms’ fans breathed a collective sigh of relief after a disappointing start to the season. They still tenth in the standings though, so there is a lot of work to do in order to move up towards the sharp end of the league. This is a game that the Phantoms will see as a “must win”.
Peterborough will be a tough opponent for the Mustangs, but with the Phantoms not on great form at the moment either, there’s perhaps no better time Invicta to face them.
Guildford Phoenix vs Chelmsford Chieftains
After seven away games on the bounce, the Phoenix finally play a home game on Saturday; ironically they welcome a Chelmsford side that has already played eight home games this season.
Guildford moved up to sixth in the table last Sunday with a 7-1 win in Swindon over the Wildcats, Josh Abbott grabbing a hat-trick and Taylor Wootton scoring a brace of goals as the Phoenix took a comfortable victory. Abbott now has 17 points from six games, and is without doubt the team’s most dangerous forward right now. Netminders Sam Calder and James Hadfield can also both boast very strong save percentages, each at over 94%.
The Chieftains finally lost their first game of the season last Sunday at the tenth time of asking, going down 3-1 in Oxford in a thriller against the reigning league champions. With the Riverside closed for refurbishment, the Chieftains now face the prospect of a large number of consecutive games on the road, and only time will tell how they deal with that. Earlier in the season, the Chieftains knocked off Guildford 6-2 at the Riverside, with Ross Brears scoring a hat-trick and James Ayling tallying 2+2=4 on the night. Brears leads the league in scoring with Ayling in fourth, so shutting down those two, as well as the Bartlett twins, will be key for the Phoenix if they want to get anything from this game.
Considering the firepower in the Chieftains ranks, they should be favourites to win here – but with Guildford playing their first home game of the season, they will be super motivated to give their fans a strong performance.
Haringey Huskies vs Lee Valley Lions
The second and final derby of the season between Haringey and Lee Valley takes place at Alexandra Palace on Saturday, with the Huskies looking for a repeat of their 8-1 win at Lee Valley earlier this season.
In that game, Huskies import forward Gheorghe Dragomir scored 2+2=4 while six other players chipped in with a goal each, as Haringey took only their second win of the season. Apart from the aforementioned win over the Lions and a 3-2 victory against Guildford, the Huskies have lost their other seven games, with a 10-5 defeat in Peterborough last weekend the latest defeat. With the Huskies scoring around 3 and a half goals per game but conceding almost 6 and a half per game, they need to improve at both ends of the ice if they want to be part of the mid-table battle this season.
Lee Valley suffered a heavy 21-3 defeat against a rampant Bracknell last Sunday, which meant that the East London side have played eight, lost eight this season and conceded 110 goals in the process. The home 8-1 defeat to Haringey last month was one of their best performances of the season, and they will be desperate to build on that as they look to get something out of Saturday’s game at the Palace. Michael Jacobs has been directly involved in all five of the team’s goals in their last two games, with two goals and three assists, while Czech forward Tom Hnilica now has four goals on the season. Both will need to be on top form if the Lions want to have a chance of outscoring the Huskies in this game.
With the Lions shipping goals, the Huskies will hope to use this game to re-discover their scoring touch; and they are favourites in this one for sure against their winless opponents.
Slough Jets vs Bristol Pitbulls
The rampant Jets took their seventh win on the bounce last Saturday, thrashing Invicta 14-1 at the Hangar. Player-coach Lukas Smital starred once again with 1+5=6, with Sean Norris, Danny Rose and Sam Talbot all contributing once again. Those four players alone have combined for 51 goals, with the Jets scoring 78 times in their nine games to date. At the other end, Brett Shepherd played the full 60 minutes against Invicta and stopped 27 of 28 Mustangs shots. This Jets side looks strong at both ends of the ice so far, and their continued strong form gets more impressive with every game that goes by.
The Pitbulls dropped down to seventh in the league last Saturday after a somewhat surprising 5-7 home defeat to the Basingstoke Buffalo. Olly Shone scored two goals and Jamie Newton, Steve Osman and Grant Richardson – playing his first game of the season after returning from cancer treatment – each scored one, but at the other end of the ice they conceded seven times with Buffalo forward Liam Coleman grabbing a hat-trick and Bristol netminder Ross Miller facing 39 shots. After a strong start to the season winning four of their first six games, the Pitbulls have now lost three on the bounce and need to start winning again soon in order to move back up the table.
The Jets are the favourites here though, and should take their eighth win in a row if they continue to play as well as they have been recently.
Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats vs Oxford City Stars
The last game to face off on Saturday will be a West Country derby between the NIHL2 Wildcats, winless so far this season, and the reigning league champions Oxford.
Swindon have played seven games so far, losing all seven and conceding 61 goals in the process, scoring only nine. Last weekend’s home game against Guildford ended in a 7-1 defeat, the solitary Wildcats goal coming from Jason Warren in only his second senior game. With most of their players also active in various junior leagues, and some with the NIHL1 Wildcats, it is always tricky to predict what kind of line-up the NIHL2 Wildcats will ice in any particular game.
But whichever line-up they ice, it will in all likelihood not be enough to challenge the reigning champions, who have won seven of their eight games so far this season and took a huge 3-1 win over previously-undefeated Chelmsford last weekend. Josh Oliver scored two goals and Joe Edwards picked up a goal and an assist in an intense game against the Chieftains, with former Bristol netminder John Dibble making his debut for Oxford and stopping 28 of 29 shots. Oxford have scored 53 goals so far this season, with 14 of those coming in a 14-1 win against these very opponents back in September, and have conceded just 20 to give them a goal difference of +33.
While the result may not be as emphatic as the 14-1 in Oxford earlier this season, anything other than a big win for the Stars here would be a major surprise.
Raiders NIHL2 vs Lee Valley Lions
In the only game to be played on Remembrance Sunday, the Lions play their second away game of the weekend as they visit the Sapphire in Romford for the first time ever.
The Raiders currently sit eighth in the league, with four wins and three losses from their seven games to date. Last weekend they took a short bench to Gosport, but gave a very good account of themselves as they went down 8-5 to the Solent Devils. Young forward Tommy Huggett scored twice against Solent, while Kamil Kinkor, George Gell and Alan Lack scored a goal apiece as the Raiders put in a respectable performance against the reigning playoff champions Solent. All four of the aforementioned forwards have started the season well, and will look to continue that form against the league’s bottom club.
While it will be the second away game of the weekend for the Lions, it will be a fairly short trip for the East London side. Nonetheless after what could be an intense derby against Haringey the night before, it could be difficult for the Lions to lift themselves for this game. They will hope to bring a fairly large bench to this game and compete as long as possible, even if getting a win from this game will be tough.
If the Raiders stay focused and play to their strengths, they should have too much for the Lions in this one.
17:00 Solent Devils vs Cardiff Fire
17:15 Invicta Mustangs vs Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms
17:30 Guildford Phoenix vs Chelmsford Chieftains
17:30 Haringey Huskies vs Lee Valley Lions
17:45 Slough Jets vs Bristol Pitbulls
18:15 Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats vs Oxford City Stars
17:30 Raiders NIHL2 vs Lee Valley Lions
NIHL South 2 (Wilkinson) Standings