With just a few weeks to go until Christmas, there are six games on the schedule in NIHL South 2 this weekend – four on Saturday and two on Sunday.
Three teams do double duty, with Chelmsford, Haringey and Lee Valley playing on both days. The game on Sunday between Lee Valley and Chelmsford was originally scheduled for October 27th, but was postponed and will now take place on the 16th of December.
Bristol Pitbulls vs Slough Jets
Ninth hosts second on Saturday as the Pitbulls, who seem to keep dropping down the table at the moment, take on the high-flying Jets. Bristol lost 3-1 in Guildford last Sunday, in what was their sixth defeat in their last eight games. The lone Pitbulls goal was scored by Josh Galea, while Ross Miller was busy in net as he faced 38 shots – 21 of them coming in the second period – stopping 35 of them. Bristol player-coach Richard Hargreaves also received 30 penalty minutes at the end of the game for abuse of the officials. The Pitbulls and the Jets have already met this season, last month at the Hangar – with the Pitbulls taking a point after going down 5-4 in overtime.
If the Pitbulls want to get anything from this game, they will have to play extremely well against a Jets team now on an 11 game winning streak. The goalscoring has dried up somewhat for the Jets compared to some thrashings they handed out earlier in the season, but they are still winning game after game, backstopped by two highly impressive young netminders in Matthew Smital and Brett Shepherd who have both impressed between the pipes this season. And we say their names every week, but the likes of Lukas Smital, Sam Talbot and Sean Norris up front would strike fear into any NIHL2 side – expect them to be difference makers in this game.
The Pitbulls will play hard as always, but the Jets are definite favourites to take the win in this game.
Invicta Mustangs vs Haringey Huskies
The Mustangs have won just two games this season and lie 12th, while the Huskies have won three and sit 11th – therefore this is a key game for both of these teams as they look to try and break away from the back of the pack. The Mustangs have lost six games in a row now since a 6-0 win against Swindon back in October, with last Saturday’s 3-8 home defeat to Bracknell being the latest of those losses. Goals from Aaron Ferris, Bradley Gutridge and Jamie Smith weren’t enough for the Mustangs as they shipped eight goals against the Hornets, with Matthew Passmore stopping 44 of the 52 shots he faced.
The Huskies went down 9-0 to Solent in Gosport on Saturday – an expected heavy defeat against one of the league’s stronger sides. But in their previous two games, the Huskies had beaten London rivals Lee Valley and followed that up with a shootout loss to Peterborough, so Haringey are definitely on better form than Invicta despite last weekend’s defeat. The Huskies also keep adding new faces to their roster, such as the Hepburn brothers James and Matthew (both formerly of Lee Valley) as they continue to try and strengthen their roster as the season goes on.
The Mustangs have strengthened their roster recently too, but the Huskies’ recent form probably makes them slight favourites for this game.
Lee Valley Lions vs Solent Devils
The Lions are now the only side without a point after Swindon took Peterborough to overtime last weekend – and now the East London side face two of the toughest teams in the division this weekend as Solent visit on Saturday and Chelmsford are in town on Sunday. The Lions showed somewhat improved performances in recent games against Bristol and Oxford – they still went down to defeat and conceded double figure goal tallies, but managed to score a total of seven goals across the two games and had some strong passages of play too. Still, the side is a long way off challenging for wins, and the Devils are an extremely difficult opponent to face.
Apart from two defeats to Slough in October, the Devils have had an impressive season to date, winning each of their other 11 games to lie third in the table behind leaders Chelmsford and second placed side Slough. They have scored 90 goals in 13 games to date – only the aforementioned Chelmsford and Slough have scored more – and already handed out a heavy defeat to the Lions earlier on in the season, winning 13-0 in Gosport back in October.
Expect a big victory for the Devils in this one.
Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms vs Chelmsford Chieftains
The Phantoms’ topsy-turvy season continued last Sunday, as they needed overtime to defeat the Swindon NIHL Wildcats, who had previously not scored a single point on the season. It was the fourth time that the Phantoms had gone to overtime this season – and they have won every one of those four games, showing that the team has a knack of winning the tight games when it really matters. They now lie eighth in the table, hoping that they can build on their recent three-game winning streak to move further up the table. Next in their sights are the likes of Romford, Bracknell and Guildford, who all lie either one or two points ahead.
To move up the table this weekend though, they will have to defeat the league leaders Chelmsford. The Chieftains have dropped only three points this season so far in 13 games, with a regulation loss to Oxford and an overtime defeat to Bristol the only blemishes on their record. They beat the Phantoms 7-0 back in October at home, and since then they have been announced the arrival of Swedish utility player David Millner who joins from NIHL1 side the Bracknell Bees and who the club hopes will be able to make his debut this weekend. The Chieftains have scored the most (102) and conceded the least (26) goals of any team in the division so far, while in the same number of games the Phantoms have scored 62 and conceded 54.
This match is in Peterborough, so should be closer than the aforementioned 7-0 back in October – but nonetheless, the Chieftains have to be favourites to win this game and keep their place at the top of the pile.
Lee Valley Lions vs Chelmsford Chieftains
In a game rescheduled from October, both Lee Valley and Chelmsford play their second game in two days. The Lions, as mentioned above, are still at the bottom of the table and keep adding new faces to their roster in order to try to create a team that can move up the table. Some of the new signings have performed well in recent weeks, with Czech import Tom Hnilica moving on to seven goals for the season in nine games and former Streatham junior Conner Smith making an impressive debut against Bristol, scoring two goals and assisting on another one for three points on his senior debut.
However, as with Saturday’s game against Solent, the Lions will come up against a very strong opponent on Sunday in the league-leading Chieftains. Chelmsford beat Lee Valley 14-1 back in September in the season opener, and the Chieftains have got stronger since then with the return of the Bartlett twins and the addition of the aforementioned Millner. Anything other than a Chieftains win here would be a major shock.
Basingstoke Buffalo vs Haringey Huskies
The Huskies play their second road game of the weekend on Sunday as they travel to Basingstoke to face the Buffalo. The home side have some catching up to do in terms of fixtures, as this will be only their eighth game of the season while it will already be the Huskies’ 14th game. Despite playing five games less than the Huskies, the Buffalo are only three points behind – so a win here would put them one step closer to overhauling the Huskies and starting to move up the table.
The Buffalo surprised a lot of people last Sunday as they limited reigning league champions Oxford to a very tight 3-2 win, forcing the Stars to give it everything they had in order to come out on top. The only other sides to keep Oxford to three goals or less this season have been Guildford, Chelmsford and Solent – so the Buffalo can count themselves as a member of quite an exclusive club.
If they can keep up that form against a Huskies side that will be playing their second away game of the weekend, then the Buffalo will hope to take the win in this one.
Looking for info on the NIHL1 South games? You can find the NIHL1 South preview HERE.
17:00 Bristol Pitbulls vs Slough Jets
17:15 Invicta Mustangs vs Haringey Huskies
17:30 Lee Valley Lions vs Solent Devils
18:15 Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms vs Chelmsford Chieftains
17:30 Lee Valley Lions vs Chelmsford Chieftains
18:15 Basingstoke Buffalo vs Haringey Huskies
NIHL South 2 (Wilkinson) Standings