A very busy weekend lies ahead in NIHL South 2, with five games scheduled for Saturday and four on Sunday.
The biggest game of the weekend is, without a doubt, league leaders Chelmsford visiting second place side Slough on Saturday, in a game that could go some way towards deciding who wins the title come the end of the season.
Slough Jets vs Chelmsford Chieftains
An absolutely pivotal game takes place on Saturday, with Slough lying five points behind leaders Chelmsford in the table but with two games in hand, meaning that a win for the Jets here would really keep up the pressure on the Chieftains.
The Jets are on a 13 game winning streak now, stretching back to September when they lost their last game against… indeed, today’s opponents Chelmsford. That was a hard-fought game in which the Jets were on the losing end of a 7-6 scoreline – making them the only team to put six goals past the Chieftains this season. Scoring for the Jets in that game were Sean Norris (x2), Timo Lindgren (x2), Lukas Smital and Dan Rose.
The Chieftains have won 15 of 17 games this season, and one of their two defeats was in overtime – meaning they have dropped just three points all season. Last weekend they took a seemingly tricky trip to Cardiff, but came away with a dominant 10-3 win, despite still missing the suspended Cameron Bartlett and Charlie Phillips. In the aforementioned 7-6 win over Slough back in September, Chieftains goals came through Courtney Grant (x2), Bradley Moore (x2), Ross Brears, Charlie Phillips and James Ayling.
This game is mouth-watering, with four of the league’s top six scorers (Brears, Smital, Ayling and Norris) all in action. Expect a dramatic game, in which the result really could go either way.
Solent Devils vs Guildford Phoenix
Another team with a long winning streak are in action at home on Saturday, as the Solent Devils look to keep up their run of ten wins in a row when they host Guildford.
The Devils are third in the table, level on points with Slough with the same number of games played, but behind the Jets courtesy of head-to-head results, as both games against the Jets ended in defeat. Since those two losses, the Devils have played 10, won 10, scoring 69 goals and conceding just 23 in that timespan. Last Sunday’s game in Romford was a tricky one for the Devils, as they came up against an in-form Brad Windebank in the Raiders net, but they nonetheless came away with a 5-3 win courtesy of goals from Alex Murray (x2), Alex Trendall, Drew Campbell and Richard Facey.
Guildford are having a very solid season, currently lying seventh in the table with just a one point gap to Bracknell and the Raiders above them. Their last game was a 4-3 overtime defeat to Bracknell on the 29th of December, with Guildford goals coming from Monty Gailer, Matthew Tull and Henry Aiken. Guildford’s results have been patchy all season long, with the Phoenix never winning or losing more than two games in a row at any point during the season.
These two sides met back on the 2nd of December, with Solent coming away 4-1 winners. Expect another Devils win here, as they look to keep up the pressure on the Jets ahead of them in the table.
Bristol Pitbulls vs Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms
The Pitbulls have lost their last three games, and lie 10th in the league following last weekend’s 6-4 home defeat against the Raiders. Giacomo Raffaelli and Steve Osman scored a brace apiece for Bristol, but it wasn’t enough to take the win. Indeed, since their 3-2 win over leaders Chelmsford back in November, the Pitbulls haven’t exactly been on great form – their only win in the five games since that landmark victory came against bottom club Lee Valley. They will hope to arrest their slide down the table in this game against the Phantoms.
After a poor start to the season, the Phantoms finally seem to be finding their feet – they have won five of their last six games to climb up to eighth in the table. A club like Peterborough would still hope to be higher than that in the table, but they are just one point behind fifth placed Bracknell now so will look to use their positive momentum to climb further up the table. Their last two games were twin victories over Basingstoke, with a big 10-3 away win coming last Sunday.
With Bristol on shaky form and Peterborough improving all the time, the Phantoms look favourites to edge this game.
Bracknell Hornets vs NIHL2 Raiders
An intriguing game takes place at the Hive as fifth placed Bracknell host the sixth placed Raiders, with both sides coming into this game on 19 points.
The Hornets have won their last two games against Guildford and Invicta, although both were pretty close games – Guildford were only put away in overtime, and Invicta were only dispatched with a 5-4 scoreline. On the scoresheet against Invicta were Jack Tarczycki, Connor Hutchison, Daniel Clayton, Liam Rasmussen and Josh Ealey-Newman, with James Richardson the busier of the two netminders on the night as he stopped 30 of 34 Mustangs shots. Hornets top scorer – and eighth in league scoring – Steve Fisher was limited to one assist, but the Hornets still came away with the two points. They’ll hope to take that momentum into a tough-looking tie against the Raiders.
It was a positive weekend for the Raiders last time out, winning 6-4 on the road against Bristol before going down to a narrow 3-5 defeat at home against Solent. Ewan Hill scored four goals against Bristol, showing what a top prospect he is despite only turning 16 a few months ago, with Tommy Huggett and Kamil Kinkor getting a goal each; while in the defeat to Solent, goals came through Stevie Dunnage, Brandon Webster and Thomas Baptist while the real star was goalie Brad Windebank who stopped 50 of 55 Devils shots.
This is a fascinating game and could go a long way towards determining who finishes in fifth place come the end of the season – the Hornets may have a slight edge as the home side, but not by much.
Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats vs Cardiff Fire
Swindon are still looking for their first win of the season following last Sunday’s tight 3-1 home defeat against Haringey. Their solitary point this season came in an overtime defeat to Peterborough back at the start of December. The Wildcats will hope to kick on in the second half of the season and start to pick up some more points, with big games to come against the likes of Haringey, Invicta, Basingstoke and Lee Valley in the coming weeks.
The Fire had a mixed weekend last time out. On Saturday they took a large roster of 19 skaters and two netminders to Lee Valley, and came away with an 8-1 win over the Lions with seven different players scoring at least one goal, with netminder James Whiting being awarded man of the match. However, they came back down to earth with a bump on Sunday, as the league leaders Chelmsford came to town and handed out a 10-3 defeat.
Now lying ninth in the table, the Fire will make the short trip to Swindon on Saturday hoping to take the win and close the gap to the sides above them.
Guildford Phoenix vs Slough Jets
Both Guildford and Slough play their second game of the weekend on Sunday, as the Jets travel to the Spectrum to face the Phoenix.
Guildford have a 50% home record so far this season, with three wins and three losses. These two sides met in Slough last month, with the Jets coming away with a 4-1 win. The sole Guildford goal that day came through player-coach Andrew Hemmings, who has nine goals and 15 assists to his name this season for a total of 24 points. Last season, Hemmings was one of a trio of big scorers for the Phoenix alongside Josh Abbott and Bailey Wootton – however this season, Abbott has missed seven games and Wootton has missed eight games, with Jared Lane (two goals and 15 assists for 17 points) stepping up as one of the team’s top scorers.
The Jets’ big scorers are pretty well known by now; player-coach Lukas Smital (18+45=63), and youngsters Sean Norris (22+22=44) and Sam Talbot (18+15=33) are all in the top nine in league scoring at the moment. In addition to that, both of the team’s young goaltenders Matt Smital and Brett Shepherd are having strong seasons, and showing that the potential risk of fielding an inexperienced goaltending duo has paid off for the Jets. Goalscorers for the Jets in the aforementioned 4-1 win against Guildford last month were Liam Underdown (x2) and Sam Talbot (x2).
The Phoenix will definitely put up a good fight in this game, but Slough will be the favourites in this game – whatever their result the previous night.
Haringey Huskies vs Swindon Wildcats
This is an immediate rematch of last Sunday’s game in which the Huskies won 3-1 in Swindon, picking up their fourth win of the season and leapfrogging Invicta to go 11th in the table. Goals for Haringey in that game came through Gheorghe Dragomir, Luke Martin-Digby and Stephen Woodford, while netminder Harry Buckingham saved 22 of 23 Swindon shots. The Huskies will hope to take that good momentum into this Sunday’s home game against the same opponents.
The Wildcats have yet to pick up a point on the road this season, let alone a win, and have travelled with small benches to some games. So their competitiveness in this game could really come down to how many, and which, players travel to the game. Last weekend’s defeat to the Huskies was a tight one, so if the Wildcats put in a strong performance here then a positive result is possible.
Nonetheless, the Huskies are favourites to take their fifth win of the season in this one.
Oxford City Stars vs Lee Valley Lions
Reigning league champions Oxford currently lie fourth, which on first glance is a lot lower than they would want to be. However when you factor in that they are only four points behind Slough with two games in hand, and nine points behind Chelmsford with four games in hand, then it becomes clear that the City Stars are still very much in the title hunt. Their last game was a comfortable 10-3 win over Basingstoke before Christmas, after their previous game against Basingstoke had been a tight 3-2 away win. On the scoresheet in the 10-3 victory over the Buffalo were Tom Davis, Conor Redmond, Lee Richardson (two goals each), Josh Oliver, Michal Oravec, Alex Staples and Joe Edwards.
The Lions are still winless after starting 2019 with a home defeat against Cardiff last Saturday. The game started well for the Lions, as they trailed the Fire by a score of 2-1 until the 34th minute of the game – before several soft goals cost the Lions and led to an eventual final scoreline of 8-1. The sole Lions goal in the game came from Gus Zimmerman. This will be another extremely tough game for a side that is adding new players and improving, but still have a way to go before being able to challenge for wins.
Expect a comfortable Oxford win here.
Basingstoke Buffalo vs Invicta Mustangs
A big tie towards the lower reaches of the table completes the games on Sunday, as 13th placed Basingstoke host 12th placed Invicta. The Buffalo have put in some strong performances recently, beating Haringey and only losing by narrow margins against Oxford and Peterborough in their last five games. However they have also lost by heavy margins to Oxford and Peterborough in the same timespan, with their last game being a 10-3 home defeat to the Phantoms last weekend. Buffalo goals in that game came through Samuel Brooks (x2) and Liam Coleman. The Buffalo are just one point behind the Mustangs with five games in hand, so a win here would help them to start to move up the league table.
The Mustangs surprised a lot of people last weekend as they took Bracknell all the way before going down by a tight scoreline of 5-4 away from home. Invicta goals at the Hive came through Joseph Bliss, Anthony Baskerville, Richard Harris and Jack Rowland, while goaltender Matthew Passmore was named man of the match for yet another strong performance. The Mustangs have won just three of their 16 games so far this season, so this is a crucial game to win as they look to finish as high up the table as possible.
This game is a very hard one to call – expect an intense scrap.
Saturday January 12th 2019
17:00 Solent Devils vs Guildford Phoenix
17:00 Bristol Pitbulls vs Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms
17:45 Slough Jets vs Chelmsford Chieftains
18:00 Bracknell Hornets vs NIHL2 Raiders
18:15 Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats vs Cardiff Fire
Sunday January 13th 2019
17:30 Guildford Phoenix vs Slough Jets
17:30 Haringey Huskies vs Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats
18:15 Oxford City Stars vs Lee Valley Lions
18:15 Basingstoke Buffalo vs Invicta Mustangs
NIHL South 2 (Wilkinson) Standings