This weekend is a somewhat quiet one in NIHL South 2, with only five games on the schedule – four on Saturday and one on Sunday.
The battle between fourth placed Solent and sixth placed Bristol in Gosport on Saturday looks the pick of the ties, with Solent having won four on the bounce and Bristol knocking off league leaders Chelmsford in their last game.
Solent Devils vs Bristol Pitbulls
As mentioned above, the Devils have won their last four games as they look to bounce back from twin defeats against Slough last month. The reigning playoff champions currently lie fourth in the table, two points behind Slough who are in third, and with a game in hand. The Devils have scored eight goals in each of their last three games, and will look to put that offensive firepower to good use against the Pitbulls. Solent’s last game was a feisty 8-6 away win over Bracknell at the Hive last Saturday, as a total of 96 penalty minutes were handed out and Devils forward Mitchell Murray also received a match penalty. He will therefore be banned for this game, but the Devils should still have enough forwards in their ranks capable of scoring enough goals to trouble Bristol.
The Pitbulls’ season can best be described as a rollercoaster; they have won five games, lost four in regulation and lost a further two in overtime to put them sixth in the table with 12 points from 11 games. They arrested a four game losing streak last Saturday with a huge 3-2 overtime victory over league leaders Chelmsford, netminder Ross Miller stopping 61 of 63 Chieftains shots to help the Pitbulls to take the win. Jamie Newton, Olly Shone and Steve Osman got the Pitbulls goals in that game. This will give them confidence coming into another game against a top four side, and Bristol will hope to repeat that magic against Solent on Saturday.
However, Saturday’s game will take place in Gosport, a rink in which the Devils are extremely hard to beat. Solent are definite favourites for this game, but if Miller stands on his head again in the Pitbulls net, this could be a close one.
Invicta Mustangs vs Guildford Phoenix
The Mustangs are down in 12th place, with their only victories to date coming against winless sides Lee Valley and Swindon; however they also took Peterborough to overtime a few weeks ago before ultimately going down to a 2-1 defeat, so that point will have definitely raised spirits in the Mustangs camp. Until last weekend that is, when they went to Guildford and were shut out by the Phoenix who took a 5-0 win. Mustangs netminder Matthew Passmore was busy as per usual, stopping 37 of 42 shots, but at the other end the Mustangs continued their trend of not being able to score enough goals. They will hope the re-activations of veteran players Kevin Lake. Dan Fudger and Andy Smith – all returning to the sport after a number of years out – can help with this lack of scoring.
Just one week after beating Invicta 5-0 at home, Guildford will hope to repeat the feat away from home on Saturday. Last weekend’s game was only Guildford’s second home game of the season, after playing seven in a row on the road to begin the season. Therefore it’s not too much of a surprise to see the Phoenix lying eighth in the table with 11 points from a possible 18. Once they get a run of home games under their belt, expect them to climb up the table and probably into the top six. In the aforementioned 5-0 game against Invicta, the Phoenix would have been buoyed by the fact that they won despite their top scorer Josh Abbott not being available to play; player-coach Andy Hemmings stepped up with a hat-trick for his side while Nick Minhinnick and Bailey Wootton also netted a goal apiece.
Expect the Phoenix to have a little too much firepower for the Mustangs again in this game, especially if Abbott is able to return. Guildford are definite favourites here.
Haringey Huskies vs Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms
Two sides whose seasons are not going to plan meet at Alexandra Palace on Saturday, with the Phantoms currently lying 10th and the Huskies just one place and two points behind.
The Huskies hoped to make a step forward from last season in which they finished 10th; however so far this season they have struggled, winning just three of their eleven games to date with two of those wins coming against winless Lee Valley. Their last game was a successful one, beating their London rivals 12-0 with Stephen Woodford scoring a hat-trick, import forward Gheorghe Dragomir adding five points and netminder David Wride celebrating a shutout. But the game directly before that was a tough 10-5 defeat against this weekend’s opponents Peterborough, showing how up-and-down the Huskies’ season has been so far.
That 10-5 win for Peterborough was one of the Phantoms’ rare bright spots this season as they have struggled for results. They lie 10th in the table having won four and lost six games; and two of those wins came in overtime as they were unable to defeat Bristol and Invicta in regulation. It must of course be stated that Peterborough have lost games to some tough teams – they have already lost to Oxford, Chelmsford, Slough and Solent – but they will not have been happy with their defeats to Guildford and Romford, as those are teams that the Phantoms would hope to be above in the table. This game against the Huskies could come at the right time for the Phantoms then, as they look to get their season back on track.
The Phantoms are slight favourites here, but the Huskies will hope that a home crowd can spur them on to take a victory against a Peterborough side that may be lacking in confidence.
Slough Jets vs Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats
After a weekend off, the Jets look to continue their fairytale season on Saturday as they welcome the winless Wildcats to the Hangar. Slough lie in third with 16 points from a possible 20, and have won their last eight games on the bounce after opening defeats to the two teams currently ahead of them in the league table, Oxford and Chelmsford. In those eight wins, the Jets have scored a total of 75 goals and conceded just 20, showing their strength at both ends of the ice. Up front, player-coach Lukas Smital leads the league in scoring with 49 points, while Sean Norris (34), Sam Talbot (25) and Daniel Rose (23) have all passed the 20-point mark already. Meanwhile in net, both Matt Smital and Brett Shepherd have save percentages above 91% and are secure backstops for the Jets.
The Wildcats continue to hunt for their first points of the season, having lost all nine of their games thus far, scoring just 13 goals in the process. They have also travelled to some away games with just eight or nine players, making life very tough for themselves; and as a result of a very changeable line-up from game to game, they don’t seem to have found a lot of chemistry in the team yet. Their top scorer so far is Eliot Randall with four goals, with Reed Sayers, Daniel Sullivan and Jason Warren chipping in with two each. At the other end of the ice, netminders Tyler Perre and Liam Maguire have faced a ton of rubber and have helped to prevent some scorelines from being worse than they actually were.
Looking at the respective points totals and goalscoring statistics, this looks like a mismatch. Expect the Jets to take a big win here.
Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats vs NIHL2 Raiders
The Wildcats are back in action on Sunday, as they welcome the Raiders to Swindon. Although the Wildcats are still yet to win a game this season, at home they tend to ice a larger bench, at least giving themselves a better chance of success, As with the Slough game above, they will be reliant on forward Eliot Randall and netminders Tyler Perre and Liam Maguire against the Raiders, if they want to get something tangible from the game.
The Raiders are on good form right now, having won five of their last six games – and their only loss in that time was a tough away game in Gosport against the Solent Devils. Overall in the season, the Raiders have won six and lost three of their games, and the newly-formed team lies seventh in the table, just a point off Bracknell who are in fifth. The Raiders beat Peterborough 5-2 away from home last weekend despite missing import forward Kamil Kinkor, with goals coming from George Gell (x2), Matt Brown, Alan Lack and Ewan Hill, while Brad Windebank in net stopped 33 of the 35 shots he faced.
The Raiders will hope to take this momentum into Sunday’s game against Swindon; and even if the Wildcats do ice a large bench, the visitors still have to be considered the favourites in this game.
Looking for info on the NIHL1 South games? You can find the NIHL1 South preview HERE.
17:00 Solent Devils vs Bristol Pitbulls
17:15 Invicta Mustangs vs Guildford Phoenix
17:30 Haringey Huskies vs Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms
17:45 Slough Jets vs Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats
18:15 Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats vs Raiders NIHL2
NIHL South 2 (Wilkinson) Standings