The NIHL South 2 season rolls on this weekend with seven games on the schedule – five on Saturday and one on Sunday.
The game between fourth placed Bracknell and fifth placed Solent on Saturday looks like the key game this weekend, while league leaders Chelmsford and their closest followers Oxford are also in action, both in away games.
Bristol Pitbulls vs Chelmsford Chieftains
The Pitbulls took Slough to overtime at the Hangar last week – a superb achievement considering the way Slough have been destroying teams this season. Bristol ultimately came away with one point after a 5-4 loss, but this did allow them to move up to sixth in the league with ten points. Olly Shone scored a brace against the Jets to increase his goal tally for the season to nine, while Janne Virtanen and Steve Osman scored the other Bristol goals in that game. Ross Miller also impressed in net for the Pitbulls, stopping 52 of 57 shots he faced. He will need to be on top form again when Chelmsford come to town.
Chelmsford bounced back from their first loss of the season against Oxford two weeks ago with a tight 4-3 win in Guildford last weekend. After scoring 46 points in the ten games this season to date, captain Ross Brears was surprisingly kept off the scoresheet by Guildford – but Thomas Wilson, Grant Bartlett, Ross Cowan and James Ayling scored a goal each to help the Chieftains to a win-loss record of 10-1 on the season so far. This means they still lead Oxford by four points, but the Stars have two games in hand – so Chelmsford need to keep winning games to heap the pressure on the chasing pack.
Bristol are a tough side to beat, so this could be a tough test for the Chieftains. But if they can utilise all the firepower that they have in their line-up, Chelmsford should be favourites to come out on top here.
Guildford Phoenix vs Invicta Mustangs
After seven consecutive road games to start the season, Guildford finally played their first home game of the campaign against Chelmsford last Saturday, going down 4-3 to the league leaders. Taylor Wootton, Nick Minhinnick and player-coach Andrew Hemmings bagged a goal each but it wasn’t enough to knock off Chelmsford, while netminder James Hadfield was impressive for the Phoenix as he stopped 37 of the 41 shots he faced. The Phoenix now lie eighth in the table with nine points on the board, but have five home games between now and the end of the calendar year in which to try and move up the table – starting with Saturday’s game against the Mustangs.
Invicta gave a great account of themselves last weekend as they took Peterborough to overtime, ultimately going down 2-1 to the Phantoms but at least securing a point in the league standings. Harry Blake scored the Mustangs’ goal in that game, while goalie Matthew Passmore put in yet another strong performance in the Invicta net as he stopped 68 of the 70 Peterborough attempts on goal. The point gained from the Peterborough game puts the Mustangs 12th in the table on five points, with Haringey one point ahead of them but having played one game more.
Last weekend’s result will have given the Mustangs a lot of confidence coming into this one – and they will feel that if Passmore plays another blinder, they have a chance of winning the game. But the Phoenix are still the favourites in this game.
Bracknell Hornets vs Solent Devils
In a crunch clash at the Hive, fourth takes on fifth as the Hornets welcome the Devils.
Bracknell didn’t play last weekend, but two weeks ago took a huge 21-3 win over bottom club Lee Valley – their third win in a row and sixth of the season overall. Jakub Fojtik and Josh Ealey-Newman scored four goals each in that game, while Steve Fisher had five assists and Josh Ealey-Newman bagged a hat-trick. The Hornets have dropped just three points this season so far, losing to Oxford in regulation time and Cardiff in overtime, and will look to put daylight between themselves and Solent in the table with a win in this game.
The Devils are one point behind the Hornets in the table, having also lost two games this season – those two losses both coming against Slough in regulation time. And just like the Hornets, the Devils have also won their last three games in a row, with a comfortable 8-0 win over Cardiff last weekend seemingly restoring some of the Devils’ confidence after some tough games recently. Seven different players scored at least one goal against Cardiff, with only Alex Trendall bagging a brace of goals, and netminder Chico Cole impressed with a a 32 shot shutout.
This game is extremely hard to call, with both sides on winning streaks and both sides boasting lots of firepower in their ranks. Either side could win this one, but one thing’s for sure: the losing side will suffer a big blow to their playoff hopes.
Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms vs Raiders NIHL2
Two “second teams” collide in Peterborough on Saturday night, as the Phantoms host the Raiders. The Phantoms took a tight 2-1 overtime win over Invicta last weekend as their struggles this season continued; Nick Alley spared their blushes with the winning goal in overtime, after Jordan Liddell had scored their only goal during regulation time. Phantoms netminder Dan Lane was also extremely busy during the game, facing 66 shots from the Mustangs and making 65 saves. Apart from big wins against Lee Valley and Haringey, the Phantoms have struggled for wins this season, and face a tough task on Saturday as the Raiders come to town.
The Raiders took a comfortable 10-1 win against Lee Valley last Sunday, as George Gell impressed with 2+3=5 and Bailey Chittock also scored two goals. 16-year-old starlet Ewan Hill made his senior debut, scoring a goal and assisting on two others, while another 16-year-old who impressed was goaltender Brad Windebank who stopped 31 of 32 Lee Valley shot attempts. The Raiders are now seventh in the table on ten points; meaning they are two positions and two points ahead of the Phantoms. So this game is important for both sides as they look to establish themselves in the crowded mid-table.
This is another game that is hard to predict and in which the result could go either way – it could come down to which goalie has a better game.
Basingstoke Buffalo vs Cardiff Fire
The Buffalo have played the least games of any team in the league to date, only playing five games while Chelmsford for example have already played eleven. Thus it is hard to rate the Buffalo’s season so far – they lie in 13th place with two wins and three losses, but a run of victories could see them start to climb up the table. One of those wins was in Cardiff in the season opener, when Liam Coleman scored a hat-trick and Aaron Burton made 38 saves to lead Basingstoke to a 4-3 win over the Fire. The Buffalo will be hoping for a similar result this weekend.
The Fire have had a rollercoaster ride of a season, with some impressive wins mixed in with some big losses. They have lost their last three road games – being shut out twice in that time, 12-0 by Slough and 8-0 by Solent – and as a result have slipped down to tenth in the table. However the mid-table is very tight, so a few wins for the Fire could see them start to climb the standings again. The Fire will want to get revenge for the aforementioned season opener in which the Buffalo took a somewhat surprising win.
The Fire’s away form hasn’t been good recently, but the Buffalo have only played one game in the last month so could be rusty. Having said that, the one game they have played recently was a 7-5 win over Bristol. So the Buffalo are probably slight favourites here.
Lee Valley Lions vs Oxford City Stars
Bottom side Lee Valley are still searching for their first win of the season, having suffered two losses on the road last weekend against Haringey and Romford. Tom Hnilica scored their only goal of the weekend against the Raiders on Sunday – it was the Czech forward’s fifth goal of the season, and he is definitely the Lions’ form player right now. But they continue to ship too many soft goals at the other end, conceding 22 in the two games last weekend. And their task doesn’t get any easier on Sunday as reigning champions Oxford come to town.
Oxford lie second in the table right now, four points behind Chelmsford but with two games in hand. Since suffering a shock loss to Guildford a few weeks ago, Oxford have shown their class to bounce back with a tight 3-1 win over Chelmsford and a 15-1 victory against Swindon. Darren Elliott bagged four goals against the Wildcats, with Lee Richardson scoring a hat-trick and both Tom Davis and Matthew Lawday scoring a brace of goals. They will look to keep up their scoring form when they visit East London on Sunday.
Oxford are odds-on favourites for this game, and expect a lot of goals for the reigning champions against the bottom placed side.
Cardiff Fire vs Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats
In their second game of the weekend, the Fire will be favourites as they welcome winless Swindon to Ice Arena Wales. Cardiff’s record at home this season is played two, lost two; but they are usually stronger at home than they are on the road, and their opponents Swindon travel to Wales without much confidence – and perhaps with a short bench.
Swindon are a very tricky team to predict; they turn up to some games with eight or nine players, while they can also raise a full roster for other games. That inconsistency in team selection is reflected in their position in the table, as they lie 14th with 0 points from nine games – only Lee Valley are below them on goal difference. Their last game was a tough 15-1 defeat at home against Oxford, with Reed Sayers scoring the lone Wildcats goal and netminders Tyler Perre and Liam Maguire having extremely busy nights, facing a total of 73 shots.
The Fire are favourites for this game, and it would be a surprise if the Wildcats could get anything from their trip to Cardiff.
Looking for info on the NIHL1 South games? You can find the NIHL1 South preview HERE.
17:00 Bristol Pitbulls vs Chelmsford Chieftains
17:30 Guildford Phoenix vs Invicta Mustangs
18:00 Bracknell Hornets vs Solent Devils
18:15 Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms vs Raiders NIHL2
18:15 Basingstoke Buffalo vs Cardiff Fire
17:30 Lee Valley Lions vs Oxford City Stars
18:00 Cardiff Fire vs Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats
NIHL South 2 (Wilkinson) Standings